The 2020 season will be crucial in determining the future path of the Las Vegas Raiders, and the importance is heightened even further when considering that the team is making a first impression on a fanbase that has never had a National Football League franchise before.
The Raiders have a high profile coach who is trying to prove that he is worthy of his contract, a quarterback who wants to solidify himself as a legitimate starter, and an owner who wants to live up to the legacy of his legendary father. These headlines, as well as several other stories that are present throughout the rest of the organization, make the Raiders one of the most interesting teams to watch this season.
After three weeks, the silver and black are sporting a 2–1 record and each game has a different conclusion attached to it. In week one, the Raiders defeated the Carolina Panthers 34–30 in a back-and-forth affair that truly could have gone either way. Quarterback Derek Carr went 22–30 with 239 yards and one touchdown while running back Josh Jacobs stole the show by rushing for 93 yards on 25 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
Week Two was a statement game for the silver and black, as the Raiders defeated the New Orleans Saints 34–24 in a comeback victory highlighted by the strong play of Carr. Carr went 28–38 for 284 yards and three touchdowns. Jacobs was also impactful, rushing for 88 yards on 27 carries and running back Jalen Richard ran for an efficient 26 yards on two carries and scored a touchdown of his own. Tight End Darren Waller was dominant, catching 12 balls for 105 yards and one touchdown. This victory put the NFL on notice.
Week three was a set back for the Raiders, as they fell to the New England Patriots 36–20. Carr was efficient, going 24–32 with 261 yards and two touchdowns, while Jacobs was solid again, rushing for 71 yards on 16 carries. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow stood out today, having six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. This game was very winnable for the Raiders, as the two teams struggled to pull away from each other before the Patriots finally were able to break through.
The Raiders are now 2–1 through three weeks and that obviously is a solid place to be. They entered the season playing three solid opponents to start, so being above .500 is huge. However, after beating a strong Saints team, losing to a Patriots team in a game where neither team played particularly well is disappointing.
It’s important to note that the offense so far has not been the problem. They are averaging about 30 points per game, which is enough to keep them in any contest, and Carr has limited incompletions while avoiding interceptions and Jacobs is running through teams. However, they can be criticized for not being timely in their most recent game. Jacobs and Carr both had fumbles and the team as a whole did not convert on third down until late in the game.
The defense needs to step up. Patriots running backs Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead ran through the silver and black and Cam Newton was able to still play efficiently despite some early struggles. This, combined with the Panthers offense also putting up 30 points on them spells some alarm for the Raiders.
They also must stay disciplined for them to find success. Six penalties for 40 yards was not helpful against the Patriots, and three for 40 against the Panthers didn’t help either. The Panthers were worse in that game, but the Patriots were not, and that is likely why those games flipped that way. The Raiders limited penalties against the Saints, having only two for 13 yards, and they must play that way in order to have a good season.
The next three games present big challenges for Gruden’s squad, as they face the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during that stretch. However, they then have a very favorable schedule for the rest of the year, and could definitely get hot during that time. They are the second best team in the AFC West, and their divisional games will be crucial in aiming for a postseason berth.
It will be interesting to see how this season finishes out for the Raiders, but there is no doubt this will be exciting for the city of Vegas. Sports franchises are known for immediate success in the city, namely the Vegas Golden Knights of the National Hockey League and their nonstop success since entering the league in the 2017-18 season.
It looks like the Raiders are another rising team for the city to embrace and while it may seem unfair for Oakland residents, the Raiders are nonetheless an interesting wrinkle in an action-packed 2020 season.