Are the Oakland Raiders For Real

There was a lot of disagreement in Las Vegas this past summer regarding the likelihood that the Oakland Raiders were going to be an NFL power. A lot of "locals" were supporting the Raiders with futures bets and Regular Season Win bets because the team would be moving to Las Vegas within a couple of years. But, many of the so-called sharps thought the team was going to fall back to earth after playing over their heads in 2016.

Why were the 12-4 Raiders seen as pretenders?

*They won a lot of close games (6-0 in games decided by 6 or less)
*They were outgained 5.7 to 6.1 on a per-play basis
*They were outgained 6.9 to 7.9 on a per-pass basis

Even if they went 12-4...the didn't accomplish a lot of the key fundamentals that go along with a 12-4 record. Many quants saw them as a 9-7 or 10-6 team that caught a lot of breaks. Sure, Derek Carr is a great young quarterback. Nobody can win all the close games on purpose!

Well, they may not have to if Carr continues to show the improvement we've seen throughout his young career. Oakland is off to a 2-0 start in 2017. And, that 10-point road win at Tennessee looks better ow than it did at the time. Tennessee crushed Jacksonville last week...and could be a 3-point favorite this week over NFC power Seattle. Oakland is a 3-point favorite at Washington...and might be -3.5 by kickoff Sunday night in D.C. (It's not a stretch to suggest that Oakland and Tennessee could meet again in the playoffs.)

The betting markets are suggesting with their pricing that Oakland could very well be a threat to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship chase this season. A big win at Washington would lock that in.

Two biggest factors:

*Carr must stay healthy
*The defense must improve

You saw how mortal Oakland became late last season when Carr was lost to an injury. This is too tough a division (Kansas City may be GREAT this year and Denver just earned a statement win over Dallas), and the remaining schedule is too challenging. And, the defense just wasn't championship material a year ago even with that 12-4 record. It has to at least accomplish "league average" to give the Raiders a real shot. New England with Tom Brady showed you can go far with a league average defense. Oakland only needs to follow that model.

This Sunday's game at Washington will be an important litmus test because the Redskins are good enough to be dangerous, but will probably be outclassed by playoff caliber competition this season. Philadelphia won on this field 30-17 in the season opener, with impressive stats. If Oakland lays an egg...then 10-6 might be the ceiling. If Oakland matches Philadelphia, this is going to be a special team to watch.

We talked a second ago about Oakland's tough schedule. Not only do the Raiders have two games apiece still ahead with Kansas City and Denver. But, they also have to make THREE more trips to the East Coast (Buffalo, Miami, and Philadelphia), while also hosting currently undefeated Baltimore, and dangerous Dallas. Oh, we left out a game in Mexico City against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots!

This could be a VERY GOOD Raiders team that only manages 10-6 because of a brutal schedule.

What about Washington? The loss to Philadelphia was ugly. Last week's win in the road against the Los Angeles Rams was a nice bounce back. But, you saw many of the Rams weaknesses exposed this past Thursday night vs. San Francisco. We may be about to learn that Washington is a 5-11 type team destined to go through a franchise overhaul after the season. NOW is the time to step up if the team is going to be important in 2017.

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