The time has finally arrived: the Las Vegas Raiders are ready to make their long-awaited debut inside Allegiant Stadium.
Their opponent will be Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, who are looking to capitalize off a dominant season-opening victory against Tampa Bay. Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs and the Raiders, fresh off a high-scoring win against the Panthers, will look to keep pace and start the year 2-0 for the first time since 2017.
The absence of fans may have robbed this game of the buzzing energy commonly associated with the city but hosting a future Hall of Famer and a team with Super Bowl aspirations is the exact type of star-studded opponent Las Vegas would like to christen its new home with a win against.
Here are three storylines to watch for when the Saints and Raiders take the field at 8:15 p.m. ET on Monday Night Football:
Who will be the next man up with Michael Thomas down?
Ever wondered what the Saints offense would look like without Michael Thomas ? Well, much to the chagrin of Brees and coach Sean Payton, fans will get a glimpse of that when New Orleans makes its first trip to Nevada. After suffering a high-ankle sprain in Week 1, Thomas will miss a regular-season game for the first time since 2016, his rookie season. Although he was quiet in the season opener, Thomas' presence -- or lack thereof, in this case -- resonates on game day. The reigning Offensive Player of the Year was targeted on 31.9 percent of routes run in 2019, the most of all wideouts with a minimum of 40 targets, according to Next Gen Stats. There will be an abundance of targets to go around in Week 2.
With the 6-foot-3 Thomas out, Alvin Kamara and Emmanuel Sanders, playing in his second game with Brees, will need to play big. One of the game's best dual-threat backs, Kamara aligned in the slot or out wide on 14 percent (6 of 43) of his snaps in Week 1, per NGS; he did so on 18.6 percent of snaps last year. Sanders, who contributed 3/15/TD versus Tampa, has never logged a 100-yard game in 10 career MNF showings. The answer to who will be the go-to target may not be obvious but, as we've seen countless times, Brees knows how to get guys involved. Against a Raiders defense that gave up 259 pass yards against Carolina, Brees should be able to create with these two, as well as veteran Jared Cook, who led N.O. with 80 rec. yards vs. Tampa.
Josh Jacobs is a problem but will the Saints solve him?
It's been a year since Josh Jacobs made history on his first night as a Raider. At home against the Broncos, Jacobs seemed relatively unphased by the moment as he went on to become the second player ever to make their NFL debut on MNF and record 100-plus yds. & two-plus TDs from scrimmage, per NFL Research. Coming into his second career MNF game -- and first against New Orleans -- this version of Jacobs is even more of a threat than his rookie year form.
After a monstrous 139 scrimmage yards and 3 TDs in Week 1, Jacobs will have his work cut out for him against a Saints D that held the Bucs to 82 total rush yards. Getting Jacobs off to a good start on the ground will be key but his ability to catch passes out of the backfield will be just as important. Playing with the efficient Carr, who is 3-2 on MNF, creates multiple opportunities for Jacobs to create in space; he's ranked near the bottom of the league in average intended air yards the last two years, per NGS. Carr's mostly conservative style benefited Jacobs last week as he hauled in a career-high four catches (46 yards) in the win. It'll be interesting to see how OC Greg Olson mixes up the talented second-year back's touches.
Can the Raiders keep their new-stadium debut record perfect?
The 2020 campaign marks the third franchise relocation for the Raiders, and the ninth of the Super Bowl era. In their previous two home-opening matchups (1982, 1995), the Raiders managed to come out on top and send their fans home happy. While Monday night obviously won't have a crowd in attendance, the Raiders will look to keep the franchise 3-0 in games in which they opened a new stadium. The '82 Raiders, who finished 8-1 in a strike-shortened season, are the only team since the 1970 merger to finish above .500 in their first season post-relocation and make the playoffs, per NFL Research. After concluding their last chapter on a sour note with a 7-9 finish, the '20 Raiders will look to make sure they usher in their new era the right way.