Every NFL season brings with it outliers who far exceed expectations or disappoint miserably. With the futures odds set for the 2021 NFL season, we examine that broad range of possibilities for the Las Vegas Raiders.
When Last We Met
It’s rare to give an 8-8 team a lot of praise, but the Las Vegas Raiders overperformed expectations in 2020 when it finished with a non-losing record. The NFL betting lines had the Raiders slated with seven wins and they eclipsed that in the last game of the season.
The offense led by quarterback Derek Carr and running back Josh Jacobs impressed and finished in the top 10 in both points and yards gained. However, the defense largely held the team back as it was a bottom-five unit in most categories, including the third-worst in allowing points.
Las Vegas plays in one of the toughest divisions and has made several moves to improve the team, even if some are questionable. The online sportsbook has the team as slightly worse than last season with 7.5 wins and missing the playoffs. Look for the Raiders to be a consistent underdog when betting online.
To Miss the Playoffs (-375)
The NFL playoff odds view the Raiders in a similar way as last season: A team that hovers around the .500 mark but is a distant contender for the playoffs. In fact, you can consider the 2020 Raiders to be a “surprise” team as they could have finished with five wins or fewer. This season, the team might just do it.
The offensive line, which was the team’s biggest strength on offense last season, is a shell of itself. Offensive tackle Trent Brown, guard Gabe Jackson, and center Rodney Hudson have all left. Pro Football Focus (PFF) now grades the Raiders’ new line as 26th overall, 11 spots down from the end of the 2019 season.
Las Vegas surprised plenty of folks when they reached for offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood in the draft. The Alabama product could turn out to be a staple to the offensive line, but as a rookie he may struggle with inconsistency early in his NFL career.
“I feel okay with my performance. The whole objective of today was to get some experience..I got some valuable playing time in…most importantly I had fun.” @Raiders 2021 1st round pick Alex Leatherwood #Raiders pic.twitter.com/Mq1FiP2VCN
— Cassie Soto (@_CassieSoto) August 15, 2021
Carr is a solid quarterback, but without pass protection he will have a rough year. The same goes for Jacobs, who already saw his yards per attempt drop from 4.8 in 2019 to 3.9 last season. The receiving corps also took a hit when Nelson Agholor signed with the New England Patriots.
The Raiders signed John Brown and Willie Snead to bolster the unit but the former was hamstrung by injuries and the latter underwhelmed. Either one could still replace Agholor’s production as tight end Darren Waller continues to improve.
For the sake of the team, the offense needs to pick up where they left off and possibly more. The defense will be better but it will still be a subpar unit.
Las Vegas upgraded its passing defense this offseason by adding pieces to the secondary in second-round pick Trevon Moehrig at safety and former two-time All-Pro cornerback Casey Hayward. The Raiders also signed pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue and defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson.
Despite all these improvements, Las Vegas’s front seven still figures to be pedestrian at best and the secondary will still be hard-pressed to keep up with the ever-improving passing offenses in the conference.
Unless the Raiders can take big leaps on both sides of the ball and several other bubble teams like Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and the Los Angeles Chargers fall off, they will find themselves outside the playoff picture yet again.
To Make the Playoffs (+275)
The Raiders have plenty of individually great players on both sides of the ball. There are Jacobs and Waller on offense and Ngakoue on defense. However, the teams as a unit are underwhelming and it starts from the trenches.
Las Vegas’s two lines are rated 26th by PFF. This means that the team will struggle to stop the pass rush and to generate their own, leading to a big disadvantage on the air. But the running game also figures to be more difficult.
The loss of Hudson, an All-Pro in 2019, will make it harder for the line to open holes for Jacobs and new acquisition Kenyan Drake. Jacobs was already less productive last season and the downward trend could continue. Guard Richie Incognito could help stabilize the line.
On the other hand, the team’s front seven struggled all season against the run. Las Vegas allowed the third-most rushing touchdowns and the 4.6 yards per attempt against them was eighth-highest in the league.
Still, the Raiders have plenty of young talent who could all help fill the gaps from their departures.
Linebacker Cory Littleton struggled in 2020 but if he can recapture his earlier form with the Los Angeles Rams, that will help the linebacking corps.
Left tackle Kolton Miller has been decent on the blindspot and if Leatherwood on the other end can be the same, they should be able to give Carr ample time to sling the rock. If Brown also stays healthy, he is a deep threat and was able to haul over 1,000 yards with a developing Josh Allen in Buffalo in 2019. And then there’s Waller.
The 28-year-old Waller is the best player on the Raiders’ roster and coach Jon Gruden just can’t help but rave about him. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce is the only player who is ahead of Waller in terms of tight end rankings.
Plenty of “ifs” need to work out for the positive if the Raiders hope to seize a wild card spot and make the playoffs. This team already played better than expected last season so it’s not crazy to believe they can defy NFL predictions.
To Win the AFC West (+1200)
At 12-1, the NFL division odds are implying that the Raiders have a 7.7 percent chance of emerging on top. This is hard to even imagine as the Raiders are up against the Kansas City Chiefs, who are chalk to win the division again. On top of that, the Chargers and Broncos figure to be better.
But it’s not impossible. The Raiders, after all, were the only team to defeat Patrick Mahomes in the regular season and at one point were 6-3 and second in the division. In fact, Las Vegas had a 4-2 record in the AFC West and half of its losses were by one score.
If the defense can improve and the offensive line can protect Carr enough to replicate its 2020 season, Las Vegas is already a solid bet to finish second in the division and sneak into the playoffs. But winning more games than Kansas City is tricky.
One small advantage Las Vegas will have is its scheduling. The Raiders get a third-place schedule and will play Indianapolis, Chicago and Miami, while the Chiefs will face Tennessee, Green Bay and Buffalo. If the Raiders can win these special interconference games while Kansas City loses a few, this will be an edge.
Consistency will also be the key for the Raiders. They can gain the edge with their special games and even go 4-2 in the division, but if they can’t keep winning it will be for naught. Kansas City can win a dozen games easily so anything short of that is a bust for Las Vegas.
While this team has the talent to pull off upsets every once in a while, doing so consistently enough to win the division is highly unlikely. These odds don’t even seem long enough.
To Win the AFC (+4000)
With 40-1 NFL conference odds, only five teams have longer odds than Las Vegas: Jacksonville (+5000), the Jets (+6600), Cincinnati (+6600), and Houston (+7500). Considering that all these teams won a combined 11 games last season, that’s like saying that the Raiders are only better than the worst of the league.
Las Vegas finished with a better record than New England, Denver and the Chargers and are behind them. These teams improved more significantly than Las Vegas did or are at least seen as being more reliable bets.
The trio has better defenses than the Raiders and that’s counts in the postseason. Carr and the offense may score plenty of points and even get double-digit wins in the regular season. But if the defense continues to struggle, it will be a quick out for the Raiders.
The Raiders’ recent records against the top of the conference doesn’t inspire much confidence, either. Las Vegas did beat Kansas City last season, but that’s their only win against them in their last six meetings
Las Vegas also lost to Buffalo and New England last season, to Baltimore in 2018 and to Tennessee in 2019. The team did manage to beat Pittsburgh and Cleveland (twice) in their most recent meetings.
Carr will have to elevate his play. Against the top-tier teams, he will be the underdog. And while he has put up some respectable stats, he has only led his team to the playoffs once. A heartbreaking injury also held him out of what would have been his first taste of the postseason.
The same can be said for most of the key players on the team. This team is young and filled with potential, but the inexperienced will cost them in the playoffs.
To Win the Super Bowl (+8000)
At 80-1 on the Super Bowl odds, the Raiders would become the biggest underdogs to win the Lombardi Trophy since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady did it for the New England Patriots in 2001 at 60-1. And two years before that, Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams went all the way at 300-1.
“So, you’re saying there’s a chance?”
It would be crazy but not impossible for the Raiders to win Super Bowl LI. But as far as Super Bowl betting is concerned, save your money. An inordinate amount of bad luck will have to befall every contender in front of Las Vegas and even if it does happen, this team will still have to rise to the occasion.
The odds are long but it still isn’t long enough to merit placing a wager on the Raiders barring a blockbuster deal that lands them Aaron Rodgers. They would still have a great deal to overcome.
If you’re shopping for longshots that may have a shot, look outside the desert.