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Why Raiders Are AFC’s Most Dangerous Team

  • Carmen Vitali
  • May 24, 2022
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There’s all this talk about the AFC West going into the 2022 season. Yet somehow, the Las Vegas Raiders seem to be flying largely under the radar when they could be the most dangerous team of all.

Being underestimated is only adding fuel to the fire, too.

Yes, the front office is in disarray. There have been several high-ranking executives that have departed the club under vague and suspicious circumstances, at best, in recent months. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it can’t affect the on-field product or what’s happening on the other side of the building. But they’ve got a lot happening on the other side of the building and these days, it’s largely all good things.

Let’s start with their new head coach – a move going completely overlooked with the rest of the movement within the division (and conference, for that matter). The Raiders were able to pry Josh McDaniels away from New England for good (probably). He now gets his chance to call the shots learning from the last go around and with all the offensive success he’s had, that has to be a good thing, right?

But he had Tom Brady as his quarterback for all those years with the Patriots. 

While it’s true that Brady can be judge, jury and executioner within an NFL offense, McDaniels has perhaps never had this stacked of a roster to command. Or at least, it’s a comparable one to what he had in New England. Derek Carr is a more than serviceable quarterback whose 68.4% completion rate last season was the second-best of any signal-caller in the AFC. He also threw for the third-most yards (4,804) in the conference and had the sixth-best interception rate at just 2.2%.

Couple that with the fact that you’re now pairing him with Davante Adams, who is not only a former college teammate that Carr should instantly enjoy chemistry with, but who is already one of the best receivers in the league. Adams had the second-most receptions in the NFL last season with 123. Eleven of those were touchdowns, ranking fifth. And his 1,553 receiving yards in 2021 were the third-most of any receiver last year.  

And it’s not like Carr didn’t have weapons before this, either. Shifty little receiver Hunter Renfrow ranked in the top 10 in receptions last season with 103. His nine touchdowns ranked ninth league-wide, as well. He was a Pro Bowler, for crying out loud.

Tight end Darren Waller has shaped up to be an integral part of the Raiders’ offense, too. He finished just outside the top 10 among tight ends league-wide in most major receiving categories last year and had the eighth-most yards per reception with 12.1.  

Need to hand the ball off? No problem there, either. Running back Josh Jacobs ranked in the top 10 in carries, yards and touchdowns within the AFC. He ranked ninth in the league overall in the latter stat with nine rushing touchdowns. He’s also just one year removed from rushing for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2020.

So let’s see, that’s a top 10 quarterback, two top 10 receivers with different skill sets, one of the league’s top tight ends and a solid run game with which McDaniels has to work. That should worry any NFL defense, quite frankly.

And we haven’t even talked about the Las Vegas defense.

After remaining quiet in the first couple days of the 2022 free agency frenzy, the Raiders made the aforementioned splash by trading for Adams but they weren’t done. They then addressed the other side of the ball, signing veteran Chandler Jones to complete their set of pass-rushing bookends with Maxx Crosby on the opposite side of the line. 

They also scooped up LSU’s Neil Farrell in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft and got a steal in the fifth round, selecting defensive tackle Matthew Butler to fortify the defensive interior. Plus, add in free-agent pickup Bilal Nichols and the re-signing of Johnathan Hankins, and for a unit that had five players set to be free agents this offseason, they didn’t make out half bad. That rotation should allow for plenty of one-on-one matchups for Jones and/or Crosby on the outside and see the Raiders get after the prolific quarterbacks in their division. 

Las Vegas looks to be set in the secondary, as well, in case those quarterbacks do end up getting the ball off. They have one of the best safety tandems in the league with Johnathan Abram and Tre’von Moehrig. If Rock Ya-Sin can lock down one side like he’s supposed to and you get a healthy Trayvon Mullen Jr., they’ll have a real shot at shutting down the AFC West offenses everyone is so (rightfully) afraid of. 

Let’s now look at their path to success schedule-wise, too. It’s true that according to Sharp Football Analysis, the Raiders have the third-hardest schedule in the league this season. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that two of the three hardest schedules belong to AFC West teams. They have to go through their own division first. 

I alluded to how they could do that above, fortifying a defense to put up with the likes of offenses run by Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and now Russell Wilson. So let’s break down the rest of the schedule. 

Las Vegas faces five-straight playoff-caliber teams to start their season. Woof. It’s a gauntlet and it makes their early Week 6 bye look a whole lot more welcome, quite honestly. If they can come out of facing the Chargers, Cardinals, Titans, Broncos and Chiefs (in that order) with three wins – I still see a path that gets them to 12 wins by the end of the season.

Following the bye week, they have both the Texans and Jaguars in a three-week span, with the Saints in the middle. New Orleans is a question mark and probably will be frustratingly good yet again despite the salary cap hell they were in coming into the 2022 offseason, but it’s still a winnable game for these Raiders. The Colts, Broncos (again) and Seahawks are next. All winnable games. I expect the Raiders to likely split each two-game series with each division opponent. The Colts are again an interesting experiment this season while Seattle looks to be in total rebuild mode. Realistically, through the first 11 games of the season, you could be looking at a record of 8-3.

After that, your only real test outside of your division will be the Rams. Let’s say they drop that game, the Patriots, Steelers and 49ers games are all winnable. Split the other two division games and bam, you’ve got a 12-5 record – which should be good enough to get you into the playoffs, if not win the division. Remember: the others are going to beat up on each other, too.

And hey, remember that whole front office being in disarray? In some ways, that can actually bring a team closer together. You just have to get the buy-in from your players and coaches. The discipline that McDaniels brings will likely aid with any off-the-field issues as far as the team goes and should help in that buy-in process. If these guys play for each other, with all the talent they have now, they could be pretty unstoppable this season.

Moral of this story: don’t be surprised when it’s the Raiders representing the AFC down in Phoenix for Super Bowl LVII.

Written By

Carmen Vitali