Raiders an 'Under' Bet Unless Carr Has Massive Year To Carry Them

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, August 7, 2018 2:09 PM UTC

Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018 2:09 PM UTC

Just last season Oakland was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. One year later with a "blast from the past" new head coach, the Raiders are thought of as nothing more than a .500 squad.

In 2016, Oakland made the playoffs for the first time since 2002. But last year, instead of building on their success, they did a face plant. Jack Del Rio coached that season like he was playing blackjack and was taking "hit me's" on 15 and kept drawing 5's and 6's. Last year, all that good fortune disappeared and a supposed team on the rise got old in various positions in a hurry. Del Rio was partly to blame by changing offensive coordinators and that blew up in his face.

Owner Mark Davis turned to the franchise's former head coach nicknamed "Chucky" and paid him a boatload of cash before heading to Las Vegas, and he's rolling the dice he made the right choice to bring Jon Gruden back.

At BetOnline and other sportsbooks, the AFC has the tightest NFL odds among the eight divisions, suggesting anything is possible in 2018. However, Oakland is not first and is not even thought of as a playoff team in the AFC.

Odds to Win AFC West: +300 (3rd)
Odds to Win AFC: +1450 (7th)

If recent Oakland history is any indicator, where the oddsmakers have not been really close with their calls, one could make the case this Black and Silver outfit could be 11-5 or 5-11.

2018: Ov8
2017: Un10 (6-10 record)
2016: Ov8.5 (12-4 record)
2015: Ov.5.5 (7-9 record)

Gruden has spent the offseason talking about playing football like the last time he coached the Raiders (2001). Immediately two songs come to mind from that year: "It's Been Awhile" (Staind) and "All or Nothing" (O-Town).

Raiders Outlook

Offense: In reading the quotes from camp, Gruden's sound bites are right from "Monday Night Football" telecasts. "I hate pre-snap penalties, they make me sick." Or "No. 4 (Derek Carr) is showing the proper leadership on and off the field. If I don't screw him up, he could have a big year." Last year's scheme did not mesh with the talent, Gruden is trying to fix this. If the offense tackles mesh with arguably the best guard-center-guard trio in at least the AFC, the Oakland run game will be top 7, not 25th like last year. What should one expect from a 32-year-old Marshawn Lynch and declining Doug Martin, we will see.

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Appreciate Peyton for all the knowledge he shared today! #TrainingCamp 💀💀💀💀 pic.twitter.com/CHfBjnIpNY

— Derek Carr (@derekcarrqb) August 2, 2018
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At pass catcher, Amari Cooper has to play like a top receiver, not how he did last year. Jordy Nelson is 33 and age and injuries have made him less effective in the short passing game. The front office traded for Martavis Bryant from Pittsburgh and Gruden has called him out repeatedly in camp. (For all the wrong reasons.)

There is talent, but does it come together?

Defense: Two aspects right away. Oakland has to work a deal with Khalil Mack and the linebackers still stink. Mack would seem to thrive under Gruden, being pushed a little harder to raise his game even further (especially against the run), but he has to be on the field. Converting Bruce Irvin to rush end will improve the pass rush and rookie DE Arden Key (LSU) could be game-changer. The interior defensive line and linebackers show promise, but results are what matters and this appears to be a real problem. Rasheen Melvin and Gareon Conley could meld into a good cornerback tandem and the safety slots are better than adequate but not much behind this foursome.

Bottom Line: For Oakland to win the AFC West or surpass the expected win total, they have to win when favored in 10 contests outside their division and be at least 4-2 in the division. For NFL picks, the greatest concern is injuries, because the depth chart is shallow, which is why this appears to be a 7-9 team and an "under" play.

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