2020 Las Vegas Raiders and Season Win Total Picks
The Coronavirus pandemic has dulled the excitement of the NFL’s move to Las Vegas by a factor of about 20. What was supposed to be a coming out party for the Raiders, their new stadium and their new home, has become a secondary storyline in a season turned upside down.
Maybe a more subdued welcome in Sin City will benefit the Raiders. Maybe Jon Gruden’s charges will be able to focus solely on football rather than on the distractions of Vegas. Either way, this is Gruden’s third season at the helm of the Raiders franchise, and the expectations are that this group break through and compete at the top of the AFC West.
Gruden has overhauled this entire roster and built it in his no-nonsense, old school image. And now I actually think that they have enough talent on both sides of the ball to compete for 16 games.
Offensively, this is Derek Carr’s make-or-break season. I’m a fan of Carr’s. He has been the victim of toiling for one sports’ most dysfunctional organizations. This is now his seventh season, though, and if he is ever going to take that next step and compete at an elite level it needs to happen now.
Carr has also had to deal with a severe shortage of offensive weapons the past several seasons. The hope is that rookie first round pick Henry Ruggs will be able to fill the void. But I’m not high on rookie wide receivers. And improvement in the league’s No. 9 passing game may have to come from increased production from vets like Nelson Agholor and Hunter Renfrow.
Las Vegas boasts an extremely talented and experienced offensive line. And that is the foundation of Gruden’s developing rushing attack. Josh Jacobs was outstanding as a rookie and will be called on to carry the ground game again.
The defense is pointed in the right direction. That said, Paul Guenther’s group still has a long way to go after finishing No. 25 in pass defense, No. 24 in points allowed and among the league’s worst units in forcing turnovers.
The Raiders really have the same problem on both sides of the ball. They have a team loaded with good, solid veteran performers. They have depth in a lot of different areas. But the Raiders lack top-end talent. They need difference makers and big play guys on offense and defense. And they just don’t have them.
The Raiders definitely miss out by not having fans in attendance. Their shiny new stadium and the excitement of playing in Vegas was set to give the Raiders a major boost. And with home games against power teams like New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Kansas City, the Raiders could use every advantage they can find.
I think that Las Vegas is going to be better and more competitive than people think. As I scan the roster and the coaching staff, I don’t see a lot of holes. It is really going to come down to development and execution for these guys. There aren’t a lot of Pro Bowl-caliber players wearing the silver and black. So if they want to get back to .500 – a feat they have only accomplished three times in 17 years – then the whole is going to have to become greater than the sum of its parts.
The Raiders overachieved in their final year in Oakland, winning seven games against one of the most brutal schedules in NFL history. I think they can surpass expectations once again.
Take Las Vegas ‘Over’ 7.0 Wins.
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