Canal Street Chronicles: Despite the Raiders’ 10-22 record the past two years, there has been a steady improvement in the play of Derek Carr: 58% completion percentage in 2014 vs. 61% in 2015. He threw 21 touchdowns passes in ‘14 and increased that number to 32 last season. Finally, a 76.6 overall quarterback rating two years ago became 91.1 last year. What are your crystal ball numbers for Carr after the end of the 2016 regular season and just how good is he?
Levi Damien: I would say 4500 passing yards with 35 touchdowns to 15 interceptions are reasonable round numbers for what Carr can accomplish this season. I expect he will improve from last season based on having the same coaching staff and receiving corps as last year. I expect he will be a top ten passer this season and much of that will show up in the win column.
CSC: Somewhat shockingly, the Raiders haven’t been in the playoffs since they last played in the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002. What are the expectations for this 2016 team? Is this the year the playoffs drought ends?
Levi: I do see the Raiders making a playoff run this year. They are still in a tough division, however, so I put them as a wildcard team, behind the Chiefs.
CSC: What do you think is the biggest advantage the Raiders have against the Saints on Sunday:
a) On offense (when the Raiders have the ball).
Levi: The Raiders should hold an advantage in the run game. Much of that will come from having one of the best interior lines in football with Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson. Latavius Murray had a great first half of last season before wearing down late. He will get help from DeAndre Washington this year -- who has looked fantastic thus far both in his speed and ability to make defenders miss.
b) On defense (when the Saints have the ball).
Levi: If you were comparing the Raiders defense to the Saints defense, I have no doubt the Raiders are better. But if you're talking about how they will hold up against the Saints offense, the only advantage the Raiders may have is deploying Khalil Mack. He will be giving the Saints' offensive line fits all day, but I expect Drew Brees to do well in getting the ball out quickly. Even with the Raiders' improved secondary.
CSC: What (if anything) worries you the most about this match-up against the Saints on Sunday?
Levi: If I were the Raiders what would worry me the most is 1. Drew Brees 2. Eastern time zone 3. Crowd noise 4. Stopping the run
CSC: First of the year (and it feels good): who wins this game and why? And while you’re at it, would you care to give us a score prediction?
Levi: My favorite question (sarcasm). I have the Saints winning this one, for the above three reasons. I don't think the Raiders can keep up offensively, New Orleans is a tough place to play when the Saints are even decent, those early start times on the East Coast have proven problematic, and the Raiders have looked very sketchy in stopping the run. That being said, I don't expect a blowout. Let's go with 30-24 as the final score.
Many thanks to Levi Damien for taking the time to answer our questions. For more coverage of Saints-Raiders with a Silver and Black flavor, check out Silver and Black Pride.