|7:20 PM PT8:20 PM MT9:20 PM CT10:20 PM ET2:20 GMT10:20 7:20 PM MST9:20 PM EST9:20 PM CT6:20 UAE (+1)22:20 ETNaN:� , September 10, 2018|
Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California Weather: 69°, Clear Attendance: 53,857
Raiders face explosive Rams after stunning trade
Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders
- The Rams have won three of the last four games these teams have played, most recently winning 52-0 in 2014 - the second-largest margin of victory in Rams history (59-0 vs. Atlanta in 1976). The Raiders owned the series, 4-1, while these teams occupied the same city from 1982 to 1994.
- These teams both left Los Angeles after the 1994 season. The Rams played 21 seasons in St. Louis before returning to Los Angeles in 2016. The Raiders are planning to move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.
- The Rams returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2004 after winning the NFC West with an 11-5 record last season. Los Angeles had seven road wins, tied with New England and Pittsburgh for the most in the league. The Rams' 29.9 points per game was the highest scoring average in the league last season.
- The Raiders lost their last four games to finish at 6-9, their 14th season without a winning record in the last 15 years. The Raiders scored more than 20 points in all six of their wins and fewer than 20 in all 10 of their losses.
- In 2017, Jared Goff's 7.97 yards per attempt ranked fourth among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts. In 2016, he averaged just 5.31 yards per attempt. His 2.66 yards-per-attempt increase is the fifth largest in league history among quarterbacks with 200 attempts in back-to-back seasons.
- Derek Carr made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive season despite seeing his touchdown-to-interception ratio drop from 4.7 in 2016 to 1.7 in 2017. Carr has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his last 17 games, the second-longest active streak in the league behind Andrew Luck.
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The Oakland Raiders open the regular season with the conspicuous absence of Khalil Mack, the decorated defensive end who was traded to the Chicago Bears after a prolonged contract holdout.
Rather than revel in the excitement of the Monday night opener against the Rams, head coach Jon Gruden found himself attempting to explain how the Raiders ended up letting one of the NFL's top defenders out of the building despite being under their control.
Mack was due $13.846 million on his fifth-year option, but never showed for any of the offseason workouts or training camp as he sought an extension that general manager Reggie McKenzie said he had been working toward.
It never happened.
When the Bears offered a pair of first-round draft picks (2019 and 2020) plus other considerations (the Raiders also sent Chicago a second-rounder in the deal), Mack quickly came to terms on a six-year extension worth a maximum value of $141 million with $90 million in guaranteed money.
It's no coincidence that Mack's departure came shortly after the Rams wrapped up their top defender, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, to a contract worth slightly less that what Mack eventually received from the Bears.
"The negotiation was what it was. It was tough. It was a long process," Gruden said. "We talked about it daily. I don't believe we were anywhere close to where the Bears were."
The deal left the Raiders reeling as they began preparations for the Rams. Their defense needed help even with Mack, and now even more is needed.
Meanwhile, the Rams travel to Oakland knowing expectations are soaring after the shocking success they experienced in Sean McVay's first season as head coach in 2017.
McVay got his coaching start working for Gruden, and now enters the unknown against a team in its first year with Gruden, who is back on the sideline for the first time since being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2008 season.
The Rams have kept their offense under wraps throughout the preseason, but expect some fireworks Monday night as quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley II and the host of perimeter playmakers go to work. Don't be surprised if the Rams go off early and often to build a quick lead, and then attack Raiders quarterback Derek Carr on the pass rush. The Rams will be aggressive. Right from the outset. The question is who will supply the rush following the offseason departures of linebackers Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin.
On offense, wide receiver Brandin Cooks is an upgrade over the player he replaces in Sammy Watkins. Adding Cooks to an offense that features productivity and experience in Gurley and wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, a veteran offensive line and Goff, who emerged as a Pro Bowler after a rough rookie season makes the Rams offense one of the most potent in the NFL.
The Rams changed their cornerbacks in the offseason and enter the season with Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib starting. The Raiders hope wide receiver Amari Cooper bounces back from a disappointing 2017, and he will be challenged going against each of those corners.
For the Raiders, while the trade of Mack made headlines, the team had been without throughout the summer. Now they know moving on is of paramount importance.
On the defensive line, Tank Carradine, a 49ers castoff, has done a serviceable job at Mack's left end position and Bruce Irvin has been moved from linebacker to right end. There is an influx of rookie talent with second-round tackle P.J. Hall, third-round end Arden Key and fifth-round tackle Maurice Hurst.
Hall and Hurst in theory can give the Raiders an inside push the Raiders never had with Mack and in theory cause a ripple effect that could help the entire unit. Key has been impressive as a long and lean pass rusher who slumped in his final season at LSU but was considered a first-round talent originally.
"There's other ways to get to the passer besides just the four-man rush," Gruden said. "Somebody has to step up. It's Arden Key's time. Bruce Irvin has to step up. Perhaps that means more blitzing, we'll have to see."
Many will be watching.
Updated September 6, 2018