The Las Vegas Raiders are one of the more intriguing teams in the entire NFL. They have an interesting roster that is made up of young and exciting players, as well as experienced and savvy veteran players.
Exciting and interesting rosters do not always equal up to success though. And success is not something Las Vegas has seen a lot of lately.
The Raiders went 7-9 last season. It was the third straight year that saw them finish under .500, and the third straight year that they missed out on the playoffs.
Since their trip to the Super Bowl back in 2002, the Raiders have been to the playoffs just one time (2016). Meanwhile, in those 17 seasons, they have had just one with a record over .500 (again 2016 when they went 12-4).
Las Vegas had two other seasons that saw them finish 8-8, but obviously failed to make the postseason in those two years.
With that in mind, what does 2020 hold in store for the Raiders? Will this be another year of disappointment that ends before the postseason? Or is Las Vegas playoff-bound again?
The first thing you need to look at is that roster.
Las Vegas has a lot of players that could breakout in 2020. Quarterback Derek Carr looked a lot more like his old “MVP-form” self last season. He still has some improving to do, but clear steps were made.
Meanwhile, running back Josh Jacobs had an incredible rookie season. His 1,150 rushing yards were eighth in the NFL and his seven rushing touchdowns were tied for 14th. Jacobs did that despite appearing in just 13 games.
Meanwhile, the receiving corps has 2019 breakout star Darren Waller at tight end, looking to improve on a fantastic season. Rookie Henry Ruggs III could be an absolute problem, and Hunter Renfrow could be a receptions machine.
Defensively, there is work to be done. That being said, there are some really nice pieces there as well.
Safety Erik Harris had a breakout season in 2019, and could factor in nicely in 2020. Johnathan Abram will be back to help out, and Lamarcus Joyner is still a great player in the secondary.
Rookies Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson could make their presence known immediately at cornerback. Meanwhile, Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell look to build off their 2019 rookie seasons and become a monstrous pass-rushing duo.
Crosby especially is exciting after racking up 10 sacks and four forced fumbles his rookie season.
Cory Littleton is a sneaky great acquisition at linebacker as well.
Of course, coach Jon Gruden has proven he can win in the past. So while his start with the Raiders has been rocky, there is reason to be patient.
It’s also important to note the improvement. Las Vegas went 4-12 in 2018, Gruden’s first year with the team. They jumped up to 7-9 last season though. Could another jump be in their immediate future?
Now, the big issue here is likely the division. Las Vegas has to deal with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. And if we’re being honest, no one is dethroning them this season barring something crazy.
The good news is, there are two wild card slots available. And the other two teams in the division are no pushovers, but there is also no reason to believe the Raiders can’t get the job done.
The Denver Broncos are interesting. They have a young promising quarterback in Drew Lock who looked the part of a franchise player in limited time last season. He has mainly inexperienced weapons around him though, so if things start to go bad – they could sink fast.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Chargers have a lot of exciting talent on the team. They also saw just how bad things could get last year and now have a few pieces missing. The future is bright, but it’s probably not here yet for Los Angeles.
So Las Vegas could be knocking on the door. They are not in the easiest division in the world, but they shouldn’t have too much trouble going 3-3 at the very least. Outside of the division, there are no real “gimme” games for Las Vegas, but there are none they should lose either.
With that in mind, something close to 6-4 or 7-3 outside of the division is very possible. And if they manage 4-2 or 3-3 in the division, the playoffs should be in their sights.
It will be a battle all year. Don’t expect to be any more sure of their playoff hopes after the first few weeks of the season. In fact, we could see Las Vegas enter Week 17 in a situation where their postseason future is still up in the air.
But they will absolutely be there. The Raiders will be contending for a playoff spot in 2020. And don’t be too surprised if they find a way to sneak in.