It's been a busy offseason for our beloved Silver and Black. One departure from a normal offseason, the Raiders being touted as one of the better teams in the league. Some say we have a top 10 team (ESPN), some even predicting we'll win the division (Cowherd).
Now that all sounds good. But as a diehard Raider fan going back to the LA days, one thing that always raises my eyebrow is when we're getting hyped. In the 80's, hype was a thing we could back up, but since the glory days it's been more of a curse and decades of hard lessons.
So I ask now, are we just a bit overrated?
Let's summarize what has transpired recently that has caused this sudden surge and examine what could be flawed.
2021 playoff team
Hell of a 4 game winning steak, all must-win games, to finish the regular season. Best thing this franchise has done in a very long time. But let's rewind the tape a month. 6-7 record coming off (another) humiliating loss to KC. Had gone an awful 3-7 after starting the season 3-0. It looked another disaster season (Gruden fired, Ruggs banned, etc). But suddenly we win 4 straight in down-to-the-wire games to sneak into the WC game (which we almost tied late).
They say you are what your record says you are, but there is gray area just like everything in life. Yes, Raiders were a playoff team (halleluiah) but I wouldn't say we were great or dominated anyone. The football Gods were good to us (for once). Last year's team was good enough to win 4 in a row, but also to lose 4 in a row as well.
Universally praised as a great hire being the OC of greatest dynasty in NFL history (I hate typing that but it's true). But are we forgetting his only other stint as HC? It was a disaster by all accounts (11-17 record). He didn't even last 2 seasons. We've heard all the reasons why it's going to be 'different' this time. I am as hopeful as anyone. But I'm not going to forget that this guy failed *hard* the last time he tried this. For all of Gruden's flaws as a mini-tyrant (and terrible talent evaluator), he is still a damn good coach and Offensive innovator. I am not ready to say we 'upgraded' at HC. It's wise to hold back and take a 'show-me' approach. The same is in order for Mayock. For all 1st round busts, he hit day 3 home runs (and UDFA as well) and left the roster in much better shape than he found it. Ziegler, too, is in his honeymoon phase and has never done this before (being a GM). Only time will tell if he's good at it.
This acquisition, more than anything else, is the reason the Raiders are being hyped so much this year. Adams is a *great player no question*. But he played with a HOF QB, one of the best of all time. Rodgers has put up monster numbers with many WRs over his career. Many of which go to other teams and fall off. Remember James Jones? All-pro Jordy Nelson? - who had more 1000 yard seasons than Adams btw. Both put up big numbers in Green Bay only to come here and fall way back to down to Earth. Jones even went *back* to GB and put up one of his career best seasons before retiring at 31 years old. Having a truly elite QB does wonders.
Adams will turn 30 years old and has played in 136 games. On the back 9 of his career, he might have a couple good years left in him. Is he going to put up huge numbers in Vegas under Carr like he did in GB under Rodgers? Unlikely. His best value might be making others around him better. They should be more open as he'll be drawing all the double teams - assuming he stays healthy and there is no fall off. We don't have WR depth, if he gets injured and misses games we're right back to where we were last year.
The story is much the same as with Adams. Jones has had a *great* career and is a welcome addition. But let's be honest, he's not a spring chicken anymore. He'll turn 32 years old and has missed 13 games the last 2 seasons. He replaced a much younger Yannick Ngakoue who led the team in sacks. Is Jones an upgrade? Most say yes, but it's not clear that he is. If he follows the same recent pattern, he is likely going to get dinged up and miss games. Is he an upgrade then?
Maxx Crosby/Hunter Renfrow
Both are getting a huge amount of hype (and contracts) after making their first probowl. Maxx has been a pressure-machine for sure- but he only had 8 sacks in 17 starts last year. And only 7 in 16 starts the previous season. Sorry but that's not good enough. I love the guy, his passion and effort. But he needs alot more sack production to be considered in the elite category.
Renfrow too has been a good player for us and and had a quality 2021 season (1000 yards 9 TDS) - but he was the defacto primary WR after Ruggs and Waller went down. With Waller healthy and Adams here his role will likely go back to what it was before, a short yardage, check down, move the sticks WR - I'm expecting something like 600 yards, 5 TD's or so.
Huge question mark, I have no idea if its a downgrade or upgrade from 2021. Massive roster turnover combined with a completely new staff and system. We went through the same last year with Bradley and it took about 8 games before that side of the ball was even decent. To be fair the 4 game win streak was largely because of their efforts. But we have so many question marks it's hard to say if we'll be top 15 or bottom 5. The vast majority of signings/starters are 1 year FA contracts and/or rookies.
Despite Adams, this is mostly the same team as last season. Who didn't exactly play well down the stretch. Yes we put up 35 to beat the Chargers in the big regular season OT finale to get in the WC. But other than that game - 6 of the last 7 games - we scored 15 (L), 9 (L), 16 (W), 17 (W), 23(W), 19 (L). It *has* to be better this season, with mostly the same roster and a brand new system.
Surely there will many in here that will be triggered by this post. Don't get me wrong I am *excited* for 2022 and to see what the post-Gruden Raiders are going to look like. There is plenty to be excited about. But I am pumping the brakes big time because if you look closely there are too many question marks to have any real confidence that we're going to best 10-7 in the toughest division in football. It's possible for sure. But it's also possible that it goes the other way too.
On top of that, I prefer being the underdog. And over the last 30 years, that has been the better place for us to be. The media is overhyping this team - but Vegas is not. Last year at this time, the over/under was 7. I was *very* confident in the over and put my money where my mouth is. This year, it's 8.5 and although I want to say over - it might not be because there's just alot going on and last year it took an amazing stretch of luck/play to get to 10 wins. Each one of those could have gone the other way. We might just be a middle of the pack .500 team - if we get some breaks we can get to another playoff (or more). Or if things don't go our way could be looking at dropping off from last year's record.
It will certainly be fun watching.