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  • How will the Jets employ Sam Darnold and what will the Lions do to attack the rookie QB? And in Oakland, it's already a pressure game for Jon Gruden
By Andy Benoit
September 10, 2018

JETS at LIONS

7:10 p.m. ET

1. To get rookie quarterback Sam Darnold comfortable, Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates must move the pocket by design. Rollouts and bootlegs get Darnold using his legs outside the pocket, where he was highly effective as a runner and especially as a thrower at USC. Those out-of-pocket designs also slice the field in half, which gives the young QB less to read. And best of all, they come on first and second down, when a defense, honoring the run, is more predictable. 

2. With the Patriots last season, Matt Patricia rushed three and dropped eight into coverage more than any other defensive coordinator last season. Expect that against Darnold; the more bodies in coverage, the more a quarterback has to decipher. Zone is especially strong in eight-man coverages against young QBs, as it creates blurrier looks than man-to-man.  

3. Some were surprised when second-year Lions wideout Kenny Golladay supplanted Golden Tate in the two-receiver packages this preseason. But to football people the surprised would have been if he didn’t. Golladay has the size-speed combination of a true No. 1 receiver. His unofficial over/under on receiving yards this season: 1,150. The Jets should consider traveling expensive new man coverage corner Trumaine Johnson with Golladay.

Bold Prediction: An improved Lions pass D and presumably dink-and-dunk Jets passing game will keep Darnold under 180 yards in his NFL debut. Lions 24, Jets 16


RAMS at RAIDERS

10:20 p.m. ET

1. It’s easy to overstate the significance of Week 1 games, but this feels like a big one for the Raiders. What happens if Jon Gruden, returning to coaching with more fanfare than even the heartiest rendition of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” could capture, sees his Khalil Mack-less defense get gouged early by his protégé Sean McVay’s big-play Rams offense (especially after Mack’s tour de force opening half for the Bears against Green Bay)? At best, furious silence sets in at Oakland Alameda Coliseum. At worst, hostile booing. Either way, pressure on the Raiders magnifies significantly. This thought has probably crossed McVay’s mind—don’t be surprised if he throws deep to his new weapon, Brandin Cooks, early in the game. 

2. No offensive scheme is better at throwing to players out of the backfield than Los Angeles’s. One thing the Rams do—and that teams will copy more in 2018—is line up Todd Gurley on, say, the left side of the formation and have his route attack the right side. This throws off the numbers for a zone defense like Oakland’s. Raiders backside safeties and linebackers must be on high alert for Gurley.

3. This being Gruden’s first game in 10 years, it’s even likelier that he’ll rely on his favorite foundational designs. No head coach except for Jay Gruden knows more about Jon’s favorite designs than McVay, given their long history.

Bold Prediction: The Rams will score first and lead by double digits before halftime. Rams 31, Raiders 13

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