This week, ESPN writer Dan Graziano released his annual list of things that he believes will happen in the NFL in the next three years, forecasting the league from now untol 2022. Some of his predictions are no-brainers, such as his first entry, that Patrick Mahomes will be the first quarterback to earn $40M per year and that the next CBA will include a more reasonable policy regarding marijuana.
But Graziano does include an optimistic prediction regarding the Raiders, as he predicts the Las Vegas Raiders will make the playoffs at least once in the next three years:
“I don’t think the Raiders are ready to make that jump in this, their final season in Oakland. But I like the pieces they’re putting together and believe they’ll hit the desert ground running in 2020.
No idea, of course, how they’ll be received in Vegas or what kind of fan base they’ll develop there, but I am predicting that they will be a playoff team in one of their first two years there. Heck, the Las Vegas hockey team went to the Stanley Cup Final in its first season, right?”
Now, Graziano is a national writer, not a Raiders-specific one, and so he is likely unaware how big a Raiders fanbase there already is in Las Vegas and how much enthusiasm for the team there is there. But he is correct about the Golden Knights, the expansion hockey team which in their first season came within a few games of winning the Stanley Cup and gained a strong following immediately upon their coming into existence. There’s no reason the Raiders won’t be the hottest ticket in a town full of hot tickets.
The Raiders already have a pretty solid team on paper, and it’s only their hellacious schedule that makes many folks in the media wary of predicting them to make the playoffs this year. Next season, their schedule should get a little easier (as it can’t get much harder), and Mike Mayock will have another offseason to continue improving the team. With all that should come greater success, but it will also mean more pressure from fans and the media to win. If the Raiders win much of anything this year, it will come as a pleasant surprise, but that will no longer be the case after they move into their new stadium in 2020.