Ceiling is High for the Silver and Black This Season

The silver and black are back… for a few more years, at least. In the offseason, NFL owners approved the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas and a club that seems to have just gotten its feet back underneath it will relocate in the not so distant future after spending six decades in the Bay Area.

Making the playoffs for the first time since 2002, the Raiders’ 12-4 record last season was their best since the turn of the millennium and tied the Chiefs for the most wins in the AFC West – the toughest division in football in 2016. By virtue of their two losses to Kansas City, Oakland finished second in the AFC West and then flamed out in the playoffs with its most important player – Derek Carr – wielding a clipboard instead of a football.

With Carr back behind center, fully recovered from a broken leg, the ceiling is high for the Raiders in 2017 after an offseason that brought in Marshawn Lynch to fill and exceed the void left by Latavius Murray, as well as a slew of important additions on the defensive side of the gridiron.

Oakland’s biggest weakness in 2016 was its 24th-ranked pass defense. Khalil Mack did his damnedest in a Defensive Player of the Year campaign but the secondary was simply not good enough to overcome the loss of Carr in a one-and-done playoff appearance. Taking a calculated risk on then-criminally implicated cornerback Gareon Conley in the entry draft, though, the Raiders look primed to be a better ball-stopping unit in their 67th season as a professional football team.

Was 2016 a one-off for the men in black? Or was it a launch pad for Oakland to overtake New England in the AFC?

Here’s what bookmakers at Sportsbook are expecting from the heavily hyped Raiders this season:

Super Bowl +1000

Many are already handing the Patriots the Lombardi Trophy and in all likelihood, a Raiders’ Super Bowl-winning season will run through New England. From a talent standpoint, these are the two best football clubs in the conference and I’m high on the head-to-head matchup for Oakland if they collide with the defending champs in the AFC championship game as I’m projecting.

When talking Oakland and their Super Bowl chances, most quote the Raiders’ fourth-hardest schedule based on last year’s records. I’m not buying it. The only three teams ahead of them on the strength of schedule list are their division compatriots and you know who had the No. 1 hardest regular-season schedule in 2016? Matty “Ice” Ryan and the Super Bowl runner-up Atlanta Falcons.

After all was said and done, the Dirty Birds’ schedule worked out to be only the eighth-most difficult with the Panthers dropping nine wins.

Just because the AFC West was the best division in football a year ago doesn’t mean it’s going to be again in 2017 and I’m confident the Raiders can win enough games this season to challenge for an all-important bye week in the first round of the playoffs.

+1000 certainly isn’t the best value on the board but it’s a fair price for a very good football team.

AFC West +160

Jack Del Rio, who’s set to begin his third season as the head coach of the Raiders, is still in search of his first division title as an NFL bench boss and according to bookmakers, this season represents his best chance to break that ice. He and the Raiders are +160 favorites to win the AFC West with the other three contestants in the division facing massive hurdles to success in 2017.

Kansas City is the only club that can potentially compete with Oakland but in my opinion, the Raiders did more to improve than the Chiefs did. Alex Smith and his conservative mentality really limit KC’s ceiling and the creeping NFL mortality of Eric Berry and Derrick Johnson makes it difficult to envision the Chiefs defense being as dominant as it was in 2016.

My prediction? The silver and black edge out the Chiefs for the division title to earn Oakland’s first AFC West crown since 2002.  

Win Total – 10

One of the highest totals on the board, the Raiders cannot afford any regression at all if they’re to get to the 11-win number they need to go OVER. Based on the analysis I’ve already provided, I don’t think that happens – the ghost of Al Davis won’t allow it.

Take the OVER here with confidence. JUST WIN BABY.

Amari Cooper to lead the NFL in Receiving Yards +1800

I haven’t mentioned him yet but Amari Cooper is one of the cornerstones of this franchise. Through his first 32 games in the NFL, the former fourth overall pick has been targeted 162 times, accumulated 2,223 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. His accomplishments were a major factor in Derek Carr becoming the highest-paid player in the NFL this offseason and it would be rude of the Raiders signal-caller to not reward his No. 1 target in the upcoming campaign.

Finishing eighth in receiving yards in 2016, Cooper avoided the dreaded sophomore slump and with Michael Crabtree now approaching 30, expect Amari’s usage to be cranked up.

Not to be underestimated in this discussion is the addition of Beast Mode in the Oakland backfield. Lynch’s powerful style makes the Raiders more effective in play-action, effectively giving Cooper more opportunities to catch passes deep down the field.

+1800 is ridiculous value for this prop bet when you consider what Cooper is capable of. By no means is it a sure thing with the likes of Antonio Brown and Julio Jones among the favorites, but it’s an option that has to be considered if you’re looking to hit the lotto.

2017 Oakland Raiders Futures Odds
Market Odds
Super Bowl +1000
AFC Championship +600
AFC West +160
Win Total  10

Odds as of August 18 at Sportsbook