By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
Leave it to the Raiders to finally secure the stadium of their dreams, a nearly $2 billion venue that looks like a giant Roomba, and to move to a city that is welcoming them with open arms, right in the middle of a once-in-a-century global pandemic that will likely leave their stadium fanless in its flagship season.
If the Raiders didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all.
So it makes sense that Mark Davis is heading to Las Vegas as a means to turn that luck around.
The Raiders bid farewell to the state of California with one of the strangest seasons in recent memory, in only a manner that they can. Now a roster that was once depleted, and then further gutted by coach Jon Gruden just two years ago, suddenly has the look of a potential playoff team in a loaded AFC West division.
The second installment of the “Jon Gruden Experience” has launched to mixed results, but the Raiders are hoping that their permanent residency on the Vegas strip will be met with rave reviews.
Raiders 2019 Season Review
If you thought the series premiere of the rebooted Jon Gruden coaching experience had its twists and turns between…
- Trading Khalil Mack to Chicago, only to watch Mack lead the Bears into the playoffs.
- Trading Amari Cooper to Dallas, only to watch him explode the moment he put on the Cowboys jersey.
- Hiring Tom Cable to coach the Raiders offensive line, of which Cable’s line was so bad it made Derek Carr cry.
- Trading for A.J. McCarron to try to ignite a fire in Carr, only to release him a season later. Trading for Martavis Bryant, only to release him that same year, and the best nugget of them all — signing Nathan Peterman (and leaving him on the Raiders roster even after the move to Vegas!)
How in the world could Gruden and the Raiders top that 16-episode home run of a debut season?
Well they certainly found a way.
The Raiders would enter 2019 without a stadium to play-in and entertained the idea of playing at the San Francisco Giants ballpark (presumably because they have toilets that actually flush and don’t drain onto the field) before 49ers ownership would balk and force the Raiders back to said septic challenged stadium.
Jon Gruden would bring on GM Mike Mayock, forming the NFL’s first All Color-Commentator GM/Coach tandem, and one of the first moves of the new regime was acquiring the ultra-talented Antonio Brown from Pittsburgh.
Antonio Brown, of course, worked out about as well for the Raiders as the Kardashian family has for Kanye. Brown would not play a single down as a member of the quasi-Las Vegas Raiders and would be released before the season after a rollercoaster of events ranging from frostbite, helmet type and secretly recording conversations with his new coach.
Fortunately for football fans, a lot of this was witnessed on Hard Knocks, and the Raiders appeared to be heading towards the same circus as they did in 2018 where they finished 4-12.
Instead, the 2019 Raiders would prove to be much further along the rebuilding process than many expected. After some chuckled at the decision to hire Mayock, the Raiders followed up with one of their best draft hauls in team history.
Oakland would get substantial contributions from rookies Josh Jacobs (1150 yards, 7 TD’s), Hunter Renfrow (605 yards, 4 TD’s), and Maxx Crosby (10 sacks, 4 FF), while 4th overall pick Clelin Ferrell would get stronger as the year went on, and Trayvon Mullen was a very solid corner when pressed into duty. The team is also especially high on safety Johnathan Abram, who missed all but one game in his rookie year with a torn rotator cuff.
The Raiders would start the season slowly, stumbling to a 1-2 record out of the gate, however the outstanding draft class would infuse the team with both talent and energy, and after unearthing Darren Waller as a sleeping giant at tight-end, the team would rattle off five wins in seven games and be in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race.
Injuries would sink the Raiders’ playoff hopes, as the team would end the season winning just one of their remaining six games, including their final game in the Black Hole where they managed to close out the building with a 20-16 loss to Gardner Minshew.
Came for the Raiders, Will Stay for the Buffets
QB Marcus Mariota (Titans)
RB Devontae Booker (Broncos)
WR Nelson Agholor (Eagles)
TE Jason Witten (Cowboys)
TE Nick O’Leary (Bills)
G Eric Kush (Browns)
DE Carl Nassib (Buccaneers)
DT Maliek Collins (Cowboys)
DT Daniel Ross (Cowboys)
LB Cory Littleton (Rams)
LB Nick Kwiatkoski (Bears)
CB Prince Amukamara (Bears)
S Damarious Randall (Browns)
S Jeff Heath (Cowboys)
Got Tired of Knocking on Wood Every Time His Coach Asked Him
QB Mike Glennon (Jaguars)
RB DeAndre Washington (Chiefs)
DE Benson Mayowa (Seahawks)
LB Tahir Whitehead (Panthers)
CB Daryl Worley (Cowboys)
S Karl Joseph (Browns)
Raiders 2020 Offensive Preview
The Las Vegas Raiders enter 2020 with a lot of speed and a whole lot of athleticism. It’s what is most commonly referred to as in Raiders circles as “Al Davis’ Happy Place”.
The Raiders would get back to their roots and used their 12th overall pick on the fastest wide receiver in the draft, Alabama’s Henry Ruggs (4.27/40). Ruggs kicked off his Las Vegas Raiders career rocking a bathrobe when he was drafted, making him the absolute PERFECT FIT for this franchise. Al Davis would have traded everything he had to the Bengals to draft Ruggs first-overall, and Mayock got him 12th. Is that a steal? Maybe!
The speedy Ruggs headlines another Mike Mayock class, which also includes 6’3” red zone target Bryan Edwards, and Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden, a ‘swiss-army-knife’ type that played three offensive positions in college.
In addition to the Vegas wide receiving corps, the Raiders have matchup nightmare Darren Waller to deal with at tight end, and the team also added future Hall of Famer Jason Witten in free agency.
Now that the Raiders have replenished a roster that was barren with talent on the offensive side of the ball, all eyes will go on the team’s franchise quarterback Derek Carr, who now finds himself in the position of needing to return to the Pro Bowl form he showed in 2016 before a broken ankle would end his season.
Carr has never quite rebounded from that injury, and many fear that the years of punishment from shoddy offensive line play and a lack of consistent weapons may have irreparably damaged the psyche of their young quarterback. If this sounds somewhat familiar to you, it’s because the same thing happened to Derek’s brother, David, in Houston.
Continuing the ‘deja vu’ theme of the Raiders quarterback room, Gruden’s biggest offensive free-agent acquisition of 2020 came with the signing of former 2nd overall pick and ex-Titans starting QB Marcus Mariota. Mariota is still only 27 years of age, and like Carr is looking to rebound following injury-shortened seasons and spotty performances.
Ironically enough, Mariota enters his new Raiders situation in almost the same manner that Ryan Tannehill entered his situation with the Titans a season ago, before he would take Mariota’s job and send him to Jon Gruden’s waiting arms.
It’s the NFL come full-circle.
Should Carr start the season slowly, the Raiders may not want to wait very long to make a change at quarterback. Should Carr hold off Mariota, the Raiders will at least have themselves a very dependable backup that could step in.
Raiders 2020 Defensive Preview
Vegas entered the offseason looking to add impact players to a defensive unit that simply could not get teams off the field a season ago.
The Raiders wanted to beef up their linebacking corps, and did just that by signing Cory Littleton away from the Rams, and up-and-coming talent Nick Kwiatkoski away from Chicago. The Raiders also added DT Maliek Collins to a one-year deal, and veterans Prince Amukamara and Damarious Randall to try to bring more stability to the Las Vegas secondary.
To further help shore up the Raiders secondary, the team would use their second first round pick on corner Damon Arnette. Arnette figures to compete with 2019 second rounder Trayvon Mullen to start opposite Amukamara.
The strength of the Las Vegas Raiders defense remains on their defensive line, as Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby will both enter their sophomore seasons with the club. Veterans Carl Nassib, Johnathan Hankins, and Datone Jones provide plenty of depth for new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
If the young Raiders’ defense can continue their development from strong rookie campaigns, Vegas could have themselves a sneaky good defense in 2020.
Raiders 2020 Outlook & Prediction
Make no doubt about it, the AFC West runs through Kansas City and will for the foreseeable future. However, the Las Vegas Raiders (we are still getting used to writing that) suddenly find themselves with a roster capable of contending for one of the three wild-card spots in the AFC.
If Gruden finds a quarterback that can run the offense to its full potential, whether that’s Carr, Mariota, or Peterman (LOL), this Raiders team can absolutely find itself playing in the playoffs in their first season in Vegas.
We’re not sure Carr or Mariota are the answer, but the talent on the team will at the least keep them in more games than not.
Raiders 2020 Projection: 8-8, 3rd AFC West
Raiders 2020 Betting Preview
- Raiders OVER 7 Wins — (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
The AFC West is certainly set up in a way where if Carr or Mariota struggle, the Raiders may be in for a long year. The Raiders have the 21st ranked schedule in 2020, meaning it does not look especially daunting. They hit 7 wins a year ago with a less talented roster and tougher schedule, we would be surprised if they don’t get to that number this year.
- Josh Jacobs OVER 1100.5 Yards Rushing — (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
The Raiders return their entire offensive line from a season ago, and have added Jason Witten into the equation, which can only help the Raiders in the running game. Jacobs only needed 13 games in his rookie season to top 1100 yards last season, with a full 16 games and a better stable of weapons around him, we see him topping this number once again.
- Henry Ruggs III to win Offensive Rookie of the Year — (+2000) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Ruggs was the first WR taken in the 2020 NFL Draft, but has the third best odds to win OROTY along with Cowboys rookie WR CeeDee Lamb. Considering the two quarterbacks, this is a risky play but a 20-to-1 dart throw on the likely Raiders #1 WR is worth the shot.