REPORT: Raiders AFC Title Will Come Down to One Position

The Las Vegas Raiders have been named a dark horse for the AFC West multiple pundits in the media, despite being overlooked for most of the offseason. The deciding factor between mediocrity and success could come down to one position.
Nov 12, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders tight end Michael Mayer (87) celebrates with team mates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets during the fourth quarter at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 12, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders tight end Michael Mayer (87) celebrates with team mates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets during the fourth quarter at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
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The Las Vegas Raiders have been receiving mixed reviews this offseason, that much is safe to say.

The quarterback room, led by Aidan O'Connell and Gardner Minshew's ongoing position battle, has been overlooked as one of the worst in the league.

Outside of superstar All-Pro players like Maxx Crosby and Davante Adams, generational rookie Brock Bowers, the term "overlooked" could be applied to just about any member of the Silver and Black, coaching staff included.

And yet, the Raiders have been tabbed as a dark-horse to come out atop the AFC West, despite the seeming juggernaut that is the reigning two-time Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Rich Eisen gave his best-case scenario for the Raiders: win the division, bump the Chiefs off in the divisional round of the playoffs, all while Crosby earns his first-ever NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and head coach Antonio Pierce earns top honors.

Sports Illustrated's Gilberto Manzano offered what could be the blueprint to Raider success. He cited defense as the key to getting in the win column, but most importantly it will hinge on the quarterback play.

"For this season to truly be special, they’re going to need either O’Connell or Minshew to deliver a season resembling what Baker Mayfield did for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season or what Brock Purdy has done the past two seasons for the San Francisco 49ers," Manzano wrote. "All signs point to O’Connell, the 2023 fourth-round pick, getting the first opportunity to win the starting gig."

As expected, Manzano listed the worst-case scenario for the Silver and Black as a middling season due to lackluster quarterback play.

In April, former NFL guard Brian Baldinger advocated against drafting a quarterback and instead building the team around whoever they had, and like Manzano, compared the situation to Purdy.

The Raiders built through the draft by adding multiple players who could start this fall, such as Bowers and interior offensive lineman Jackson Powers-Johnson. There are other intriguing draftees that could contribute, like cornerback Decamerion Richardson and linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, too.

O'Connell was Manzano's pick to earn the starting quarterback spot. But when it came to betting odds, SI's Jennifer Piacenti was confident in Minshew.

"Yes, Aidan O’Connell earned the right to compete for the job," Piacenti wrote. "But Minshew’s two-year, $25 million contract, NFL experience and recent success in Indianapolis all point to him getting the Week 1 start."

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Michael France

MICHAEL FRANCE