How Long Before the Raiders Take a Title in Vegas?

Heading into the 2020 season, football fans following the AFC West turned their attention to the Las Vegas Raiders. Not only did the city command manage to attract its first major league football team, but it capitalized on one of the NFL’s most contentious and passionately-followed franchises: the Oakland Raiders.

With just as much teeth-barring as the recent Rams relocation from Saint Louis to Los Angeles, the Raiders move was high-profile and highly publicized. Though fans in Oakland were hung out to dry, the move helped reinvigorate the team and staff, long sullied by a losing record at the Coliseum.

Previously, a move to Vegas may have been a major win for NFL players with a love of gaming. Not only was the City of Lights home to the USA’s only active sportsbooks prior to 2018, but it was also the mainstay for gaming enthusiasts.

In recent years, however, many casinos have launched online, which means that the most popular casino games in North America are just a few clicks away—no need to head down the Strip. However, players now stranded in the Nevada desert mecca can at least look forward to the brand-new Allegiant Stadium with its cutting-edge technology—as well as an invigorated fan base that’s never seen a football team call their city home.

But can the Raiders rise to the occasion and bring a title home to their new city? After a touch-and-go first season, all eyes will be on the Raiders come Week 1 on September 9, 2021.

A Slow Start in 2020

The Raiders’ inaugural season in Las Vegas didn’t go as planned for a variety of reasons. First off, scheduling changes caused massive disruption to the NFL’s standard 17-week layout, including the cancellation of pre-season games.

With little wiggle room for rescheduling, many teams struggled to find their footing. Oddly enough, this wasn’t an issue for the Raiders. Head coach John Gruden and star players like Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs, and Rodney Hudson started strong, tallying wins against the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.

In Week 5, the Raiders defeated the Chiefs. In Week 8, they took home a win against the Browns—followed by the Chargers in Week 9 and the Broncos in Week 10. In mid-November, the Raiders had a 6-3 record.

Pundits’ ears perked up as odds on the team shortened for a playoffs run. The only thing standing in their way was the Chiefs who, after delivering a 31-35 loss in Week 11, dominated the AFC West. However, that wasn’t the Raiders’ only issue.

Much like the team’s performances back in Oakland, the Vegas Raiders suffered from a late-season breakdown. After their Week 10 win against the Broncos, the Raiders failed to regain their momentum. Aside from a Week 13 win against the Jets and another Broncos takedown in Week 17, the Raiders didn’t recover and ended their season 8-8.

A shot from the Raiders’ former stomping grounds in Oakland, California.

Week 1 Countdown: Stirring the Passion

In the off-season, the Raiders will need to take full advantage of their Draft options, then jump into a training regime that will prepare them for another season. This time, Gruden needs to find a way to keep the momentum going all the way to Week 17.

In 2020, both Carr and Jacobs both had good seasons—though it’s unclear whether or not Gruden will keep Carr as he seeks to rebuild his team in Vegas. Now that Gruden is entering his fourth year as head coach, the responsibility to transform his roster of young athletes into reliable players has never been higher.

Last year, Gruden sacked his defensive coordinator, but many decisions that cost the Raiders wins (including their 25-26 loss to the Dolphins) stemmed from the head coach’s decision-making. His time to bring a title home to Vegas could already be running out.

AFI
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