- New Raiders DC Paul Guenther is one of the most respected defensive minds in football, and this unit has a higher ceiling than a lot of people think if Khalil Mack returns.
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Raiders 2018 win total: 8 (over EVEN, under -120)
Raiders 2017 record: 6-10
Key offseason acquisitions: HC Jon Gruden, DC Paul Guenther, LB Tahir Whitehead, LB Derrick Johnson, WR Jordy Nelson, OT Breno Giacomini, CB Rashaan Melvin, WR Martavis Bryant, S Marcus Gilchrist, RB Doug Martin, CB Daryl Worley, DE Tank Carradine
Key offseason losses: HC Jack Del Rio, OC Todd Downing, WR Michael Crabtree, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, OT Marshall Newhouse, DE Denico Autry, LB NaVorro Bowman, CB T.J. Carrie, CB Sean Smith, CB David Amerson, K Sebastian Janikowski, P Marquette King
Five things to keep in mind before betting the Raiders’ win total
1. You’re right to worry about the fact that Jon Gruden has not coached a game of meaningful, organized football since the George W. Bush era. The game might have passed him by to an extent (and, if you ask his former Bucs players, there’s going to be some culture shock). However, it’s tough to picture this Raiders offense underachieving the way it did a year ago. The system was disjointed, essentially two separate offenses (pound it with Marshawn Lynch behind a heavy set, or spread it out and go quick-strike). Derek Carr is, indisputably, a top-15 and potentially top-10 QB in the NFL, and teams with a top-10 QB have to go out of their way to lose 10-plus games.
2. Paul Guenther is one of the most respected defensive minds in football, and this defense has a higher ceiling than a lot of people think (if the young secondary finally meshes, and Tahir Whitehead is the player the Raiders think they’re getting, and rookies Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall awaken a dormant interior pass rush…). But it’s a big turnaround that requires a lot of things going right, and the Khalil Mack holdout is a bad place to start. The defense was bad with Mack, an all-world pass rusher and edge-setter. Considering the cash flow issues and the heavily back-loaded Derek Carr deal, it seems not just possible, but probable that Mack will miss games in the regular season.
3. The AFC West profiles as a middle-of-the-pack division coming into the year, but the Chargers have one of the most talented rosters in football, and the Broncos are a much-improved team if they get league-average quarterbacking from Case Keenum. The Chiefs are something of a wild card—Patrick Mahomes finally gives them the kind of aggressive passer to take full advantage of an elite supporting cast, even if it might result in a few more interceptions. Not to mention, K.C. has won 18 of its last 20 against AFC West opponents, in large part because Andy Reid and his staff are outstanding game-planners. You don’t have to squint too hard to see the Raiders falling to fourth in this division.
4. There’s something to be said for bringing in veteran leaders, and Gruden clearly wanted to change the culture. But holy crap, the Raiders chased old guys in free agency. The Packers had so little confidence in Jordy Nelson regaining his old form that they let him go despite his friendship with the team’s historically great QB. Linebacker Derrick Johnson has had an outstanding career, but he was a shell of his former self last year and seems highly unlikely to find the fountain of youth at this point (he’ll be 36 in November).
5. The Raiders are lame ducks in Oakland, set to move into their new Vegas stadium in 2020 (it’s unclear where they’ll play in ’19). What kind of home-field advantage will they possibly have this year? They were 4-3 at the Coliseum last year, but those four wins were over the Jets, the Geno Smith-led Giants, the Paxton-Lynch led Broncos (who nearly came back with two Trevor Siemian-led TD drives in the fourth quarter) and the Chiefs in a Thursday night game that ended with approximately 17 consecutive penalties in the end zone.
PICK: UNDER 8 Wins
Other NFL team betting previews: Cowboys, Texans, Broncos, 49ers, Steelers, Cardinals, Browns, Buccaneers, Bengals, Giants, Saints, Packers, Falcons, Chiefs, Bears, Chargers, Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks