New home city. New stadium. Same old results. The Raiders jumped out to a 6-3 record with victories over playoff teams in the Chiefs, Saints, and Browns in the first 10 weeks of the season before it all came crumbling down. The Raiders were on the verge of moving to 7-3 in Week 11, but Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to a last-minute victory, which would be the inflection point for the rest of the Raiders’ season. They lost five of six games in Weeks 11-16 to finish with an 8-8 record (8-8 ATS) and to knock themselves out of the playoff race (-270), which has become the norm for a once-storied franchise. The Raiders haven’t had a winning record and they’ve missed the playoffs in 17 of their last 18 seasons — 2016 is the only season they’ve done it since they lost in Super Bowl XXVIII during the 2002 season.
The Raiders scored the 10th-most points per game (27.1) and they allowed the third-most points per game (29.9), which resulted in a lopsided 12-3-1 mark toward overs last season. Las Vegas finished 5-4 in one-score games and 1-3 in contests decided by three scores or more, and they ended the year with the league’s 12th-worst point differential (-44).
Las Vegas’ 2021 win total (7.5) rose by half a victory thanks in large part to the additional game on this year’s schedule. The Raiders climbed over their 2020 win total by a victory with their dramatic last-minute win over the Broncos in Week 17. Entering this season, I have the Raiders power rated as the 25th-best team in the NFL (+8000 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the 12th-best team in the AFC (+4000 to win the conference), and as the fourth-best team in the AFC West (+1800).
Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.
|1||Baltimore Ravens||+3.5||8:15 (Mon)|
|4||@Los Angeles Chargers||+4||8:15 (Mon)|
|9||@New York Giants||+1.5||1|
|10||Kansas City Chiefs||+7.5||8:20|
|12||@Dallas Cowboys||+5.5||4:30 (Thurs)|
|13||Washington Football Team||-2.5||4:05|
|14||@Kansas City Chiefs||+10.5||1|
|18||Los Angeles Chargers||-1.5||4:25|
The Raiders didn’t get many scheduling breaks this season, but they do have a gettable stretch of games in Weeks 5-11. All four of their opponents that are lined at 7.5 wins or worse come in that stretch against the Bears, Eagles, Giants, and Bengals. The Raiders do at least have two games against teams coming off Monday Night Football when they take on the Giants in Week 9 and Washington in Week 13. The Raiders also have just one game against an opponent coming off a bye in the Bengals in Week 11.
The Raiders will face the toughest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football), which includes a gauntlet to end with five straight games against teams lined at 8.5 wins or better. Las Vegas will look to avoid a late-season collapse once again in 2021 with matchups against the Chiefs, Browns, Broncos, Colts, and Chargers to end the year. They also open with four consecutive games against teams lined at 8.5 wins or better in the Ravens, Steelers, Dolphins, and Chargers. Las Vegas has two dreaded short-week road games against the Steelers in Week 2 after playing the Ravens on MNF and they have to travel to Dallas for TNF in Week 12.
Key Off-season Moves
|Kenyan Drake (RB)||Alex Leatherwood (OT)||Devontae Booker (RB, NYG)|
|John Brown (WR)||Trevon Moehrig (S)||Nelson Agholor (WR, NE)|
|Willie Snead (WR)||Malcolm Koonce (DE)||Tyrell Williams (WR, Det)|
|Nick Martin (C)||Divine Deablo (LB)||Jason Witten (TE, retired)|
|Yannick Ngakoue (DE)||Tyree Gillespie (S)||Trent Brown (OT, NE)|
|Quinton Jefferson (DT)||Gabe Jackson (OG, Sea)|
|Solomon Thomas (DL)||Rodney Hudson (C, Ari)|
|Casey Hayward (CB)||Takk McKinley (DE, Cle)|
|Rasul Douglas (CB)||Maliek Collins (DT, Hou)|
|Karl Joseph (S)||Raekwon McMillan (LB, NE)|
|Lamarcus Joyner (S, NYJ)|
|Erik Harris (S, Atl)|
|Arden Key (DE), SF)|
2021 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||7 (-110/-110)|
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 7.5 (-110) in late March to 7 (-110)
Super Bowl: +5000 in early February to +8000
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Raiders had the look of a team ready to potentially breakthrough to the playoffs last season before everything fell apart in the final seven games. The Raiders were on the verge of beating the Chiefs for the second time on Sunday Night Football in Week 11, which would’ve moved them to 7-3 overall, but their defense collapsed in the final minute against Patrick Mahomes. The first three years of Jon Gruden’s tenure have been full of strange personnel decisions, but he’s done a fairly strong job on the field as the coach with the Raiders’ win total rising in each of his first three seasons (4<7<8).
One of Gruden’s biggest accomplishments has been Las Vegas’ development of TE Darren Waller. He went from nearly being out of the league for good in 2017 to developing into one of the league’s premier mismatch pieces the last two seasons. Gruden will now look to work his magic on a pair of underwhelming wide receivers entering their second seasons. The Raiders selected Henry Ruggs at No. 12 overall last year and he was little more than a decoy with Nelson Agholor surprisingly taking his role as the team’s deep threat. Derek Carr enjoyed a career year thanks in large part to his depth of target climbing to 8.1 yards after it sat at 6.6 in 2019, and he’s going to need Ruggs to take a major leap forward to keep this passing attack from falling off. Carr also needs Bryan Edwards, a 2020 third-round pick, to become a factor in Year Two after an incredibly quiet rookie campaign.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Raiders moved in the wrong direction this off-season after a number of bizarre personnel decisions in April and May. They broke up their offensive line by trading away Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals, Gabe Jackson to the Seahawks, and Trent Brown to the Seahawks. The Raiders also handed Kenyan Drake a two-year deal that our Adam Caplan hasn’t seen a backup running back get in at least 10 years. GM Mike Mayock and HC Jon Gruden capped it off with their yearly tradition of reaching for players in the first round by taking consensus second-round OT Alex Leatherwood at No. 17. The Raiders have now reached for Clelin Ferrell, Ruggs, Damon Arnette, and Leatherwood over the last three drafts. They also traded away 2020 third-round pick Lynn Bowden during the middle of last season, who promptly started contributing for the Dolphins with some playing time.
Carr is coming off the best season of his career as he averaged 7.9 YPA with a 5.2% TD rate and the Raiders still finished at .500 with an 8-8 record. Carr has reached eight or more wins twice in his seven-year career and the organization has reached eight wins just four times since 2003 with their only winning season in that span coming in 2016 when Carr led them to a 12-4 record. The Raiders will be hard-pressed to make it two winning seasons in the last 19 years unless they see significant gains from a defense that was among the league’s worst. Las Vegas needs DE Yannick Ngakoue to kick start their pass rush after they finished with the fourth-fewest sacks (21). They’ll also field one of the youngest secondaries in the league and the group is sure to take their lumps this season.
Notable Player Props
Derek Carr: passing yards (4050.5), passing TDs (25.5), MVP (+7000)
Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (4100), passing TDs (24)
Best-Case Scenario: Carr had arguably his best season in 2020 and he’s able to maintain a high level of play with second-year receivers Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards stepping up.
Worst-Case-Scenario: This paper-thin receiving corps ends up burning him with Ruggs and Edwards struggling to break through once again while Darren Waller takes a small step back from a career-best season in 2020.
Josh Jacobs: rushing yards (1050.5), rushing + receiving yards (1249.5), rushing TDs (9)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (1095), rushing + receiving yards (1310), rushing TDs (8)
Best-Case Scenario: The Raiders are better than their projected win total of seven games, which leads to more positive gamescripts and more touches for Jacobs than anticipated heading into the season.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Free-agent signee Kenyan Drake operates as the 1B in this backfield and he takes a significant chunk of touches away from Jacobs in his third season. Las Vegas’ rebuilt offensive line also has some growing pains in 2021.
Darren Waller: receiving yards (1050.5), receptions (95.5), receiving TDs (7.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (1035), receptions (90), receiving TDs (7)
Best-Case Scenario: Waller improves his career-best numbers for a third straight season as clear #1 receiver for Derek Carr and he challenges Travis Kelce to be fantasy’s TE1.
Worst-Case-Scenario: A viable second target doesn’t emerge in Las Vegas’ passing attack, which allows opposing defenses to devote all of their attention to slowing down Waller.
Henry Ruggs: receiving yards (725.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (780)
Best-Case Scenario: Ruggs shows off a more well-rounded route tree in his second season and he elevates himself to the #1 WR role after Nelson Agholor bolted to New England in the off-season.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Ruggs shows little improvement in Year Two and he once again leaves Raiders’ fans wondering why he was the first wideout selected in a loaded 2020 WR class.
Las Vegas Raiders under 7.5 wins (-138, FOXBet). Risk two units to win 1.45 units — Jon Gruden has done an excellent job getting the most out of his offensive players since he moved from the booth back to the sidelines, coaxing career-altering seasons from Darren Waller, Nelson Agholor, and Derek Carr in recent years. The problem is he’s been a complete and utter disaster in the team-building aspect with GM Mike Mayock. They sunk to new lows this off-season when they traded away three-fifths of their offensive line in Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, and Trent Brown. They also spent significant money on Kenyan Drake to be a backup running back and they severely reached for OT Alex Leatherwood in the first round, which has become a yearly tradition on Day One of the draft.
We’ll also find out if the Raiders have one of the weakest homefield advantages in the league with so many out-of-towners coming to Las Vegas to support their favorite teams. They could be a sneaky team to tank in December if they get off to a terrible start since they could move on from Carr this off-season since he has no dead money left on his contract after this season. For that fact, I wouldn’t mind throwing a couple of bucks on the Raiders to finish with the worst regular season record at +2000 at William Hill, although it’s going to be tough for any team to be worse than the Texans this season. This line is predominantly sitting at seven wins at most shops so be sure to shop around to see if you can find any 7.5s out there or any sevens with plus-money to the under (BetMGM has it at +105).
None of note.