Regardless of when the NFL season starts this season, the Las Vegas Raiders face an uphill climb to the top of the rugged AFC. Despite the customary turnover that occurs every year, the Silver and Black find themselves in the midst of a retooling of a conference that the Patriots dominated for nearly two decades. When Tom Brady departed for Tampa, his absence left a power vacuum. With as many as nine teams that could conceivably challenge for a playoff spot, the Raiders find themselves in a conference with only one team, the Chiefs, that appear as a lock to compete. Today, we will look at the AFC East. The Raiders will play all four teams this season.
New England Renovation
As mentioned, Tom Brady now plies his trade in the NFC South. Yet, the Patriots seemed non-plussed, fully intent on keeping the franchise forward. Enter Cam Newton. From offseason work, he appears in great shape. yet, we all understand that football shape greatly differs from gym muscles. If the former MVP can parlay the gym work into field success, the Patriots will continue to be a mammoth headache. For the Raiders, especially Jon Gruden, the team needs to defeat New England. Although Brady isn’t there, the team still possesses that mystique an aura of success. Like them or not (and I don’t), the Raiders need to not only win their matchup but hope to see them again in the playoffs. This supersedes the Tuck Rule. A win in the playoffs versus Belichick helps cement a shaky legacy for Gruden that hears the whispers of winning with someone else’s players.
Decent Talent, Suspect Coaching
The Jets and Raiders cross paths this season. Or, that is what the schedule says. Depending on the continued global health crisis, this game remains up in the air. Now, on paper, the Jets looked markedly better. If you talk to any reasonable Jets fan, they will tell you they possess no faith in Adam Gase. As a result, the Raiders should have an easier time versus this squad. Granted, New York humbled the team last season, on their way to a 34-3 victory in Jersey. Now, that Raiders defense featured Tahir Whitehead surrendering a 70-yard reception to Braxton Berrios. The 2020 Jets offense features Denzel Mims, Breshaud Perriman, and Frank Gore. While talented, Adam Gase still cashes a check to coach this team. As a result, do you really trust him to repeat anything that happened in 2019?
South Florida Surprise
Perhaps no other team in this division improved as much on paper as the Miami Dolphins. The team opened up the wallet on free agent and stacking a fairly effective draft to assemble one of the league’s most intriguing stories. While the quarterback situation appears solid with Ryan Fitzpatrick, the intrigue resides with the offensive line. The Raiders should be able to put the heat on the quarterback. Ereck Flowers stands out as one to watch. Flowers struggled in New York. The interior of the defensive line needs to dominate.
Josh Allen guided the Bills to the playoffs without a number-one wideout. In the offseason, they traded for Stefon Diggs. Now, Josh Allen finally boasts a top wideout, a route craftsman. Also, the other two wideouts, John Brown and Cole Beasley all stand under six feet. Meanwhile, the mammoth Dawson Knowx and Lee Smith will occupy tight end. The Raiders will need to stay with shifty wideouts. As a result, this will test their agility. Josh Allen led this team to the playoffs.
In essence, none of these games are gimmes. The Las Vegas Raiders will need to win at least two of these, maybe three. Under those circumstances, which two are wins?