The Las Vegas Raiders face an uphill battle to raid their 7.5 over/under projection in 2020. They currently possess a good football team who can move the ball on offense, along with a stellar line to keep a quarterback’s uniform clean and to allow their running backs to pick up needed yards.
But they face too many hindrances in 2020, starting with a head coach who cannot implement an offensive attack based around a run-first approach, even when he has a good thrower in Derek Carr.
Speaking of Carr, is a quarterback controversy brewing? The Raiders also face a horrible outing when in the red zone, and they play in a division that can feature more than one playoff contender in 2020.
Here are six factors described in deeper depth to explain why the under is the better choice at the NFL betting sites.
1. Losers in Takeaways
If the Raiders want to improve on their abysmal 26.2 points allowed per game and give their offense a chance to improve on their pedestrian 19.6 points scored per game, they need to create more takeaways.
It can’t happen again in 2020, but with a suspect defensive backfield despite its potential, 2021 is a better season to bet the over on the Raiders.
2. Quarterback Controversy
Head coach Jon Gruden loves to praise Marcus Mariota at practice and you could see a quarterback controversy brewing after incumbent Derek Carr stated he’s sick of disrespect.
He should be sick of it, given the fact he’s thrown for over 4,000 yards in 2018 and 2019. But when you pay Mariota a higher-than-average sum of money to be a backup, you have ulterior motives.
It’s classic Jon Gruden.
Ever since the 2002 Super Bowl that he won with a team Tony Dungy built, he thinks he can outsmart the NFL universe. Newsflash, Mr. Gruden. You haven’t accomplished anything since winning the big game with Dungy’s team. But you are a fantastic color commentator.
Does Gruden think he can outsmart the league as Mike Vrabel did in Nashville when he benched Mariota for Ryan Tannehill and finished runner-up to the AFC Championship? Probably, and the Tannehill-Mariota situation was an outlier in 2019.
But feel free to bet Mariota will relieve Carr at some point in 2020. It’s still not a safe bet at the online sportsbooks to think the Raiders will overachieve with Mariota.
3. Poor Red Zone Percentage
The Raiders had one of the NFL’s best offenses in 2019, yet their red-zone percentage ranked among the league’s worst, converting for a touchdown just 22% of the time. It was another reason the team finished with 19.6 points per game, 24th overall in the league. They didn’t do anything to improve upon this issue.
While running back Josh Jacobs could score a few more in 2020, they didn’t sign a legit red-zone threat. Neither Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, nor Tyrell Williams was that player in 2019. So, don’t expect it in 2020.
The team went out and drafted Henry Ruggs.
Ruggs is nothing more than another Tyrell Williams and will probably end up like most speed demons at the NFL level drafted in the first round. That goes for John Ross, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and similar players.
How one could take Ruggs over the likes of Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson blows my mind. And I can only guess the late, great Al Davis possessed general manager Mike Mayock during the virtual 2020 NFL Draft.
They also went out and signed tight end Jason Witten, who is on the 18th hole of his career. But unlike Gruden, he’s not much of a color commentator.
4. Western Foes
The Raiders don’t stack up well against the AFC West, where they must contend with the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that blew them out in both games with a combined score of 68 to 19.
They must also deal with the upstart Denver Broncos, who added more pieces to their defensive puzzle and figure to become one of the league’s elite defenses once more in 2020. It doesn’t bode well for an offense that struggles in the red zone.
The Broncos also possess one of the league’s youngest and most exciting passing units in the league with the emerging Drew Lock leading the way. He leads the likes of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, K.J. Hamler, and a dynamic trio of backs. Expect the Raiders and their pass defense to struggle.
The Los Angeles Chargers can go either way, given the star-studded talent they offer in Tinseltown. They also lack a viable quarterback, at least in the short-term. It may give the Raiders an advantage, but this team is talented enough on offense and defense to bail out their quarterbacks.
Count on the Raiders to struggle against LA. Despite sweeping their rivals in 2019, they beat them by a combined score of 50 to 41, where both games finished as one-possession decisions.
5. High-Flyers in the South
Eventually, the Raiders must hang tight with the NFC South, where all four teams could feature dynamic offenses through the air. If fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell wants to remove the reach label, this is his time to shine alongside fellow draftee but more proven pass rusher, Maxx Crosby.
The problem is, the Raiders and their struggling defense that allowed almost 4 touchdowns per game in 2019 are facing old faces in the league who double up as some of the game’s quickest decision-makers in Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and the re-emerging Teddy Bridgewater.
Each offense in the NFC South can light up the scoreboard and make life tough for even the league’s best defenses. Given the fact that the Raiders defense struggled in almost every facet of the game, expect them to have a difficult time in all four matchups.
They’ll probably have a difficult time against the Panthers, a team that appears to be on the rebuild. They, too, own a dynamic offense that begins with the league’s most complete skill position player in Christian McCaffrey.
We know what the Saints and Bucs will do in 2020, and that just leaves the Falcons. Despite a poor record in 2019, the Falcons finished strong and they boast one of the league’s best offenses.
6. Recent History of Relocated Teams
It dates back to 1988, when the St. Louis Cardinals moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to become the Phoenix Cardinals. The team squandered to a 7-9 record in that first season.
The St. Louis Rams finished with the same record in 1995 when they kicked off their first of 21 seasons in St. Louis, Missouri. The Raiders returned to Oakland that same season after their own stint in the City of Angels and finished 8-8.
The Baltimore Ravens stumbled to 4-12 in 1996 and the Tennessee Oilers sat at 8-8 following the 1997 season, their first in their relocated home.
In 2016, the Rams returned to Los Angeles and also finished a meager 4-12, while the Los Angeles Chargers became the only team in 30 seasons to finish the year with a winning record at 9-7.
The Raiders play in one of the league’s toughest divisions and must face another tough division, giving them 10 games where winning is difficult. I’d predict their ceiling to be 5-5 here, meaning they must finish at least 3-3 against their final six opponents.
It’s evident that they struggle in the red zone. And they also struggle with takeaways, minimizing their offense’s opportunities to score and to get back onto the field.
The Raiders have a potential quarterback controversy brewing, too, given the salary and praise that the new backup quarterback Marcus Mariota is getting.
History doesn’t favor this team or any newly-relocated team, so expect a struggle during their first year in Vegas. So, what are your plans with the Raiders? Darkhorse over, or a more sensible under? Let us know in the comments.