NFL

Raiders have chance to make noise in Las Vegas voyage

In their first season as the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden’s group is looking to make the playoffs and win a postseason game for the first time in 18 years.

Best-case scenario

Making it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and only the second time since the 2002 season. The front office invested a lot into the defense via the NFL Draft and free agency, and getting consistent play on that side of the ball is going to be crucial if they are going to do anything of substance this year.

Also, Derek Carr will need to rekindle his 2016 magic, and if he does, a 10-win season is possible, as well as a trip to the postseason.

Worst-case scenario

Taking a step backwards in their first season in Las Vegas. After four wins in 2018, and then a three-win improvement in 2019, the franchise is trending in the right direction, but a tough early season schedule could do them in.

In their first six games, the Raiders face Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Drew Brees, so getting off to a slow start is certainly possible. A slow start would be devastating to their playoff hopes, especially in a very tough AFC West.

Biggest offseason move

Revamping their linebacker group with Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski.

The linebackers had a tough time covering last season, and the addition of these two instant starters makes them emphatically better in that department. Littleton was the crown jewel of the Raiders free agency haul and Kwiatkoski is going to wear the green dot for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.

Their arrival makes a position of weakness into a strength.

Draft pick who makes the big impact

Last season, the Raiders struggled to piece together their wide receiver group, as the whole Antonio Brown saga threw a wrench in the team’s plans before Week 1.

Enter Henry Ruggs III, the No. 12 overall pick from Alabama who will assume WR1 duties as a rookie. His arrival gives Carr an elite weapon atop the depth chart.

Overall expectations

The AFC West is going to be an interesting division this season, as the Kansas City Chiefs are the reigning Super Bowl champs, and the rest of the division got better.

The Raiders are going to have new faces in some big positions this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where all three levels were upgraded. The offense returns elite talent in Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller, and the hope is Carr can continue to master Jon Gruden’s offense.

The expectation for this team is to win nine or ten games, make the playoffs as a Wild Card team, and surprise some people with their combination of youth and veterans.

The division is going to be tough to win, as the Chiefs did not lose much from their championship team, but the Raiders have an easier schedule than they did last year, and if they can avoid the late-season slump, they will be a playoff team in 2020.


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