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Key Matchups: Even without Michael Thomas, the Saints provide a tough test for young Raiders defense

The Saints will be marching into town this Monday night.

The Silver and Black is hosting New Orleans in their first-ever game in Allegiant Stadium in a showdown of two undefeated cross-conference teams. It's a great test for the young talented Raiders, who are looking to prove themselves as not only a team of the future, but as a team of the present against the NFC powerhouse Saints who played in the NFC Championship game just two years ago.

Here are a few key matchups to look forward to going into the Monday Night Football clash.

A QB Duel

While they play on the same side of the ball, Derek Carr isn't going to be stacked up against just any quarterback on Monday Night Football. He's going up against a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The New Orleans Saints will be led by NFL career passing yards and touchdown leader Drew Brees, who, like Carr, is exceptionally careful in his decision making with a talented arm.

Derek Carr knows the greatness of his adversary and has a great respect for Brees' game and longevity.

"He's very accurate," says Derek Carr. "He's always among the top at completion percentage. We model a lot of what we do as quarterbacks based on what he does. He'd rather throw a completion than throw a 40-yard pass for an incompletion. And he has a Super Bowl ring, so he doesn't care much about it. So I love his game. He keeps the ball moving, he's efficient; they stay on schedule. He's one of the best to ever play the game."

Carr's legacy as a Comeback King was burnished again on Sunday. By leading the Silver and Black on a late go-ahead drive, he now has 19 fourth-quarter comeback wins to his name, the most among active quarterbacks through his first six seasons. Carr will also have a lot of weapons at his disposal in workhouse superstar back Josh Jacobs, lethally fast receiver Henry Ruggs — if he's healthy — and powerful tight end Darren Waller.

The CBs vs. Emmanuel Sanders

To all of the Raiders fans who were thinking to themselves: 'How the hell are we going to stop Michael Thomas?', it looks like he will miss the Monday night game against the Raiders due to an ankle injury that may keep him out for several weeks.

So there's that.

Nevertheless, if you think that Thomas, who led the league in receptions and receiving yards last year, not playing means it will be a cake walk for the Raiders secondary, you're dead wrong.

The Raiders 2020 first-round pick Arnette held his own against the Panthers wideouts in his first NFL game with five tackles and a pass breakup. Coach Gruden is very high on Arnette, however he sees room for improvement for him going into Week 2. Arnette could get a number of meaningful snaps against the Saints' other Pro Bowl wideout Emmanuel Sanders.

Sanders is very familiar with the Raiders after playing for division rival Denver Broncos for five seasons, and he's in line for an increase in production in replacement of Thomas, which he has proven he is more than capable of doing.

I thought [Damon] Arnette did some decent things," said Coach Gruden in Monday's post-game press conference. "Obviously, he gets beat on the double move. You can't have that happen in that situation."

Even though Arnette will not have to go up against the NFL record holder in receptions in the season, Sanders will still be the hardest challenge the young corner will have faced to date.

Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell vs. Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk

I'm going to go ahead and call it right now: This will be the most key matchup of the game. It might not be the sexy matchup the media will promote for the primetime Monday night game, but in the words of DJ Khaled, don't play yourself.

At 41, he's no spring chicken, but Drew Brees is one of the most cerebral quarterbacks to ever play this game and has killed defenses when given time to make plays from the pocket.

Big keyword: WHEN.

Crosby and Ferrell had to be careful in Charlotte against Teddy Bridgewater due to his mobility and versatility, as the Raiders defense allowed a couple of big runs for first downs to him. Brees has proven that he can make a play when the pocket collapses, however he's mostly known for letting plays develop and making proper reads and progressions.

If the Raiders want to win this game, Crosby and Ferrell — and the rest of the Raiders' D-line, for that matter — can't afford to give Drew Brees much time in the pocket. It will be crucial for the young talented pass rushers to get in the backfield as often as possible and push the Saints' offensive line back. The only challenge is the Saints' offensive line, much like the Raiders', doesn't have any pushovers.

For much of the night, Crosby and Ferrell are expected to be going up against two All-Pro offensive tackles in Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk.

Armstead has had two straight Pro Bowl seasons and Ramczyk is coming off a 2019 season in which he was selected as a first-team All-Pro after allowing zero quarterback sacks. He was also the highest-graded Offensive Tackle by Pro Football Focus. Armstead and Ramczyk will also be aided by Pro Bowl guard Andrus Peat and 2020 first-round pick out of Michigan Cesar Ruiz.

Crosby and Ferrell have shown great promise that they can become a formidable pass rushing tandem for years to come for the Silver and Black. This Monday night will be the best time to prove that to the world on primetime television.

However if they have difficulty getting to Brees it could be a very long Monday night for the young Raiders defense.

The Raiders return to Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center for a walkthrough as they begin preparing for the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.

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