Raiders

Raiders key matchup No. 1: Gaither vs. Newton

newton_cam_panthers.jpg

Raiders key matchup No. 1: Gaither vs. Newton

Editor's note: This is the final part in a series that spotlighted three Raiders-Panthers matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m. (CBS), at Bank of America Stadium.

[MATCHUP NO. 1: Raiders vs. easter time zone]

[MATCHUP NO. 2: Mike Goodson vs. Luke Kuechly]

Raiders MLB Omar Gaither vs. Panthers QB Cam Newton

Tale of the tape
Gaither (53): 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, seventh season, Tennessee
Newton (1): 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, second season, Auburn

CHARLOTTE -- So, is Cam Newton more "icon," or "entertainer" for Carolina?

The Raiders figure to get a full dose of both Sunday, as well as Newton's athletic blend of power and speed. It will be a familiar sight for middle linebacker Omar Gaither, who spent last season with the Panthers.

"He's big and fast," Gaither said. "If he were playing a different position it would probably be (defensive) end. And a guy who can run. He has every tool you need in a quarterback, and he can beat you with his feet. So you basically need to keep him in front and contain him on the edges.

"You see the highlights every week of him getting a 60-yard scamper. Those are the kind of things that kill your defense. You just have to contain him."

Indeed, not only is Newton leading the Panthers in passing with 3,461 yards through the air, he is also Carolina's leading rusher, running for 647 yards thus far. Only three other players in league history have led their respective team in both categories in a season, Bobby Douglass, Randall Cunningham (four times) and Donovan McNabb.

"You have to have your antennas up every play, every down," Gaither said. "So it's not like, OK, third down, they have a running quarterback, let's spy him. No. Because he might take off on first down with the read-option.

"That's just the challenge that that team presents for us. Steve Smith is still rolling. Those running backs are good. But you've got to stop Cam."

Newton was so frustrated early in the year that he jokingly said he needed a "suggestion box" from media and fans to help him get out of his slump. Apparently, it worked.

In his last five games, Newton has thrown 10 touchdowns without an interception and has a 109.8 passer rating in that time frame. In his last seven games, he has 17 TDs (13 passing, four rushing) and two turnovers. He has not thrown an interception in his last 152 pass attempts, dating to Nov. 11, the longest such active streak in the NFL.

And having thrown for 7,502 career yards , Newton needs 373 yards to eclipse Peyton Manning for most yards passing in a player's first two NFL seasons. He also has 21 rushing touchdowns, the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 20 rushing TDs in his first two years.

Only running backs Arian Foster (24), Adrian Peters (23) and Marshawn Lynch (22) have rushed for more touchdowns the past two seasons/

"He's a 'wow' player," Gaither said. "Some stuff you can't practice for it. It's like if you're playing against Kobe (Bryant), you know what he can do, but somehow he still hangs 40 (points) on you. You've got to contain him, keep him bottled up and not let him (break one).

"Maybe if he gets a five-, six-, seven- or eight-yard scamper here or there, that's fine. Just don't let him go for 50. And that's kind of what you have to do with him."

Khalil Mack wants to be Raider for life: 'That’s a no-brainer for me'

mack-ap.jpg
AP

Khalil Mack wants to be Raider for life: 'That’s a no-brainer for me'

The Raiders gave quarterback Derek Carr a massive contract extension last June. Right guard Gabe Jackson got paid later that month.

Khalil Mack’s big deal is coming, likely this offseason. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie anticipates a deal getting done, and hopes Mack’s agent feels the same way.

Mack’s rep and Raiders contract folks will work out details of a massive contract extension. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year doesn’t have interest in all that. He has one preference above all.

Mack doesn’t want to go anywhere. He wants to stay with the Raiders long term.

“Of course. That’s not even a question,” Mack said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Fallon Smith, which airs in this week's episode of "Raiders Central." “That’s a no-brainer for me, especially when you think about coming into this organization and try to build something special, that’s something you want to be a part of for a lifetime”

Mack has plenty of money, top-5 overall draft picks often do. The No. 5 selection in 2014 considered that first deal life-changing money, enough to help his family.

“That has been a treat for me so far,” Mack said.

He doesn’t daydream about signing a nine-figure contract. He doesn’t long to be the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player (although that might be in the cards, anyway).

“I’m not really even thinking about that,” Mack said. “I’m thinking about the Patriots, that’s just my focus that’s just my mindset – anybody who talked to me about that matter, whether it be my best friend, my mom, my dad, I tell them the same thing. I’m thinking about the Patriots and sacking Tom Brady.”

That, unlike signing a record contract, was a career a goal. Mack said in a post-draft press conference he wanted to sack legends. Peyton Manning and Brady topped the list.

Manning retired before Mack could check his box.

“Yeah, I didn’t get that mother----er,” Mack said. “Damn. Yeah, dang, I was disappointed.”

Mack will have a second chance at Brady Sunday when the Raiders play New England in Mexico City. He had eight tackles and two quarterback hits against Brady’s Patriots in 2014, but didn’t bring the quarterback down.

Mack considered his third regular season game a welcome-to-the-NFL moment.

The University of Buffalo alum has accomplished a ton since then, with 34.5 sacks and last year’s top defensive honor to his credit. He’ll need a Herculean performance against the Patriots to help the Raiders win a pivotal game. A sack would certainly help, but Mack isn’t calling his shot.

“Yeah, I’m not one to talk,” Mack said. “I’ll express that when I get on the field, but I can’t wait, I can’t wait to play against him.”

How Guy Fieri became friends with his childhood idol Ken Stabler

guy-stabler-ap.jpg
AP

How Guy Fieri became friends with his childhood idol Ken Stabler

Guy Fieri has long been a gregarious sort, a risk taker to be sure. That was the case well before he became one of the planet’s most popular celebrity chefs. The Food Network star and restaurant mogul owned a few spots around the North Bay, only starting to build what has become a vast empire.

He heard legendary Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler had an endorsement with a local Chevrolet car dealership. That was Fieri’s hero growing up a diehard Raiders fan, when the Silver and Black mystique reached its zenith.

Fieri thought he’d take a shot in the dark. If Stabler was interested, Fieri told the car dealer, the quarterback could have a meal at his place, on the house.

One Saturday night shortly after, Fieri got a call he’ll never forget.

“They said, ‘Someone who looks a lot like Kenny Stabler just walked in the restaurant,” Fieri said on this week’s episode of NBC Sports Bay Area's Raiders Insider Podcast. “I had a bunch of people over for a dinner party, but I left right away and rushed to the restaurant. There was Kenny having dinner. I introduced myself, and we just started talking football and food, and became fast friends.”

That was the start of a long-lasting friendship with the Raiders. Fieri is as die-hard as they come, and has bled Silver and Black his entire life. He’s become an honorary Raider of sorts, and remains incredibly active in the Raiders community. He has hosted tailgate shows from the Raiders parking lot. He has cooked for John Madden’s birthday parties, and hosts a special cookout each year at Raiders training camp. He participates in Raiders charitable endeavors, and even participated in Jack Del Rio’s charity bocce tournament last week.

Nothing however, compares to becoming friends with Stabler. The relationship started as fan and favorite athlete, but they bonded over common interests and stayed in contact for a long time before Stabler died from complications of colon cancer in 2015.

“Kenny and I became great friends, and getting to meet and get to know him in the last 10 years of his life was a great opportunity for me,” Fieri said. “He could tell you a story about a play or moment in history like he was there. He had such a great memory. I remember talking to him one night and asking, ‘Do you know why I am the way I am? You had such an influence on me.’ I mean, he made his own rules. He had his own style, and he wasn’t going to be put in a corner. He was going to play the way he played and live the way he lived. I always admired him so much.”

Fieri has strong relationships with modern Raiders as well, from ownership down to the players.

Before he got on the inside, he was a fan who owned the Oakland Coliseum parking lot. He would come to Raiders games ready to cook.

“I used to bring an arsenal of cooking gear,” Fieri said. “I would bring a jambalaya pot. I used to smoke meats the night before and all that stuff. I would never have to buy a ticket. If I would cook, my friends would find a way to get me to the game. Some of my best Raiders buddies came through those tailgate events. People would just have a great time and take care of one another.”

Fieri is best known for hosting Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," "Guy's Grocery Games" and many other Food Network Specials. His new show, "Guy's Big Project," airs on Food Network on Sundays at 9 p.m.