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Ranking the Raiders and their AFC opponents by tiers

Where does Las Vegas stand in the AFC power structure?

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
Raiders, Chiefs
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the smoke clears from the Julio Jones trade from the Atlanta Falcons to the Tennessee Titans, the reality is that the Titans just got stronger and the AFC has just gotten tougher.

It’s an extremely competitive conference, so where do the Las Vegas Raiders stand in the conference power structure?

Let’s look at the conference in terms of tiers:

Tier 1

Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens

This is a powerful, small group of elite teams. These three teams combined to win 38 games in the regular season last year and I bet they surpass that number this season. The Raiders’ challenge starts Week 1 against the Ravens at home.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Tier 2

Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts

These three teams show how deep the conference is and how difficult it will be to make the playoffs. I think all three of them are capable of winning 12 games and they should all make the playoffs barring major injuries.

Tier 3

Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers

I may be overrating the Steelers and wonder if I’m underrating the Chargers. This will be a fascinating group to watch in 2021. More than one of these good teams will likely miss the playoffs.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos
Raiders, Broncos
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Tier 4

New England Patriots, Denver Broncos

The separation from Tier 3 to Tier is 4 pretty steep. I expect the Patriots and Broncos to be average or worse in 2021.

Tier 5

Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars. Houston Texans

I think the Bengals can quickly separate themselves from the other teams on this list. The Jets, Jaguars and Texans will all be lucky to win more than four games.

Bottom line:
The Raiders have seven games against teams that are ranked higher than them. Those of course will be critical to their chances of being one of the AFC’s seven playoff teams in 2021.