The Oakland Raiders head to Las Vegas in 2020. They might head to Vegas in 2019. The $1.9 billion stadium that Vegas is building for the Raiders won't officially open until 2020.
I recently got back from Vegas. I went down to Sin City for a wedding. Turns out, by the looks of it, Las Vegas thinks the Oakland Raiders are going to become the Las Vegas Raiders by this season. The billboards are already up. People have already bought their Raider gear.
Maintaining 3 years of enthusiasm in Vegas is going to be tough to do. Maintaining 3 years of enthusiasm in Oakland, heck, 1 year of enthusiasm in Oakland, might not happen at all. That could be a shame because out of every team in the AFC, the Raiders have the best shot of beating the mighty New England Patriots.
Check out why!
Oakland Raiders Offense
QB Derek Carr
Derek Carr does go into the 2017 NFL Season off an injury. Make no mistake, he could end up never reaching his potential. But, I've got the feeling, having watched Carr get better year to year, that he comes back guns blazing.
He's one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. He's also got a great football mind. Case in point? In 2015, Carr threw 13 interceptions to go along with 32 TD passes. Up until getting hurt this past season, Carr had thrown 28 TDs to only 6 INTs. That's a huge improvement in TD to INT ratio in a single season.
If Carr's healthy, he should take the next step, possibly all the way to elite status.
RB Marshawn Lynch
Marshawn Lynch took a year off from football. I'm not sure it matters. For Marshawn to come back, it means he's hungry. Beast Mode should have no trouble dominating behind one of the better offensive lines in football.
Carr and the receiving corps should be effective. That opens things up for Lynch. The more Lynch becomes effective, the more Carr and the receivers become effective. The two should work off each other, Lynch in the rushing attack, and Carr and his receivers in the passing attack, all season long.
Raiders Receiving Corps
The best way to describe how fantastic Carr's targets are is to just list their stats. Check it out!
WR Amari Cooper – Cooper had 83 catches for 1,153 yards. Amari caught 5 TD passes last season.
WR Michael Crabtree – Crabtree caught 8 TD passes. He caught 89 passes for 1,003 yards.
TE Jared Cook – Cook signed with the Raiders after playing with Green Bay last season. Cook missed 6 games during the regular season. He still caught 30 passes for 377 yards, and 1 TD pass. In the post-season, Cook was exceptional. Versus the Dallas Cowboys, he caught 6 passes for 103 yards, and scored a TD. In the NFC Championship Game, Cook caught 7 passes for 78 yards and scored a TD.
Oakland Raiders Defense
The Raiders D should improve big league this season. Oakland's defense allowed an average of 24.1 points per game last season. That's not great. If Oakland Round 1 pick Gareon Conley gets past his off the field issues, I won't go into what those are, Oakland's secondary should be much better.
Counting Conley, the Raiders used 6 of their 9 draft picks on defensive players. Even if Conley can't play, Oakland's defense should be improved.
The Raiders aren't leaving Oakland until possibly 2020. That gives the city plenty of time to toast a Super Bowl winner. This season, Raider Nation could hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The offense is set with Beast Mode at RB. The defense should be much better due to the Raiders' draft picks.
Oakland shouldn't abandon the Raiders yet. The move to Las Vegas won't be for a while. In the mean time, Raider Nation should root for a team that could bring an NFL Championship to the City of Oakland.