While the summer season brings much enjoyment to the average person, for an NFL fan, it represents a desolate wasteland where Sundays just aren't quite as vibrant as in the autumn months. However, with each passing day, we inch closer to the beginning of the 2023 NFL season, which officially kicks off on September 8 this year.
Whether you've had your favorite team's tweet notifications turned on all summer or if you've decided to tune out all football news entirely, you'll be able to learn everything you need to know about your team going into the 2022-23 season right here.
In today's article, I'll be discussing the Las Vegas Raiders.
I'm working on season guidebooks for all 32 NFL teams, which will all be released within the next few weeks. To check out another team's guidebook, click here:
2021 Season Recap
The Raiders were sneakily very good in 2021, putting together a top 10 offense and defense from a points perspective. They did that despite battling an onslaught of off-the-field issues, ranging from the head coach being fired for sending racist emails a decade ago to an emerging star receiver committing negligent vehicular manslaughter on a poor, young woman.
You have to praise QB Derek Carr for how he handled himself both on and off the field through all the controversies that arose throughout the season. Impressively, the Raiders won all four of their overtime games, which is a great indication that Carr can get it done in crunch time. He led the Raiders to a playoff appearance after a clutch overtime victory in Week 18 against their division rivals, Los Angeles, to complete a four-win stretch to close the season. Unfortunately, Las Vegas fell in the first round of the postseason to the eventual Super Bowl representatives from the AFC.
Las Vegas was very good statistically on offense in terms of both yardage and points. While they gave up a lot of yards defensively, they were more of a "bend, not break" squads that tended to limit points scored in the red zone. They made a bunch of moves in the offseason to better position themselves in the tough AFC West heading into 2022.
Significant Roster Moves
Almost every name in the "Losses" column raises an eyebrow when you consider all the talent lost from last season's team. You'll see four receivers (Bryan Edwards, DeSean Jackson, Zay Jones, and Henry Ruggs), three defensive backs (Brandon Facyson, Casey Hayward, and Nate Hobbs), two linebackers (Cory Littleton and K.J. Wright), and two D-linemen (Quinton Jefferson and Yannick Ngakoue) in the list of guys who won't be playing for the Raiders in 2022 for one reason or another. However, Las Vegas did a great job replacing that talent in the offseason.
The biggest addition was Davante Adams, who rejoins his former college quarterback and roommate, Derek Carr. Adams is objectively one of the top five receivers in the league who is an absolute game changer in every aspect. Joining him in Las Vegas' passing game will be newcomers Keelan Cole, Mack Hollins, and Demarcus Robinson. Carr will have to get used to his new host of targets, which may take some time into the season before it fully clicks with all of them.
Chandler Jones will be a new force coming off the edge, while Jayon Brown will be a centerpiece of the defense at middle linebacker. Vegas acquired CB Rock Ya-Sin in a trade with Indianapolis (in exchange for Ngakoue), and he and Anthony Averett will be immediate starters in the secondary.
2022 Draft Class
The Raiders had six selections in this year's draft, with their first pick not coming until the third round. They added depth at offensive line, running back, and defensive line, taking two guys at each of the three positions. None of the players taken in this draft will likely become day one starters, but will instead serve as backups who hope to grow into starting roles down the road.
The Raiders will take on the AFC South and the NFC West to go along with their six divisional games. Their other three opponents are the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, and Pittsburgh Steelers. With an opponent prior season win percentage of .528, Las Vegas has the 7th hardest schedule in the NFL.
Las Vegas' primetime games include one Thursday night game at the Los Angeles Rams, one Sunday night game versus New England, and one Monday night game at Kansas City. They also play on Saturday night, Christmas Eve in Week 16 at Pittsburgh.
The Raiders return 14 of 22 offensive and defensive starters from a season ago, which is below average among all teams in the league. However, as discussed earlier, Las Vegas did an excellent job replacing their roster departures in the offseason, putting them in fine shape to pick up where they left off in 2021. That will be necessary given how tough their division will be this season.
Josh McDaniels was hired in the offseason to become the 22nd head coach in Raiders history. McDaniels brought in new guys at the three coordinator positions, who all enter their first reason with the Raiders as well.
Oddsmakers have set the regular season win total for the Raiders at 8.5 games. As of right now, Las Vegas is actually the least likely team to win the AFC West, and the 6th least likely team to win the AFC. At +4000 to win the 2023 Super Bowl, they are tied for 16th among all teams in the league.
Bucket Squad Predictions
I actually like this Raiders roster a lot going into the 2022 season. With that being said, I would consider them the weakest team in the AFC West mainly due to them having a head coach and coaching staff in their first season with the franchise. I could see the Raiders winning a division if they played in some of the other divisions across the league, but in a grouping with the Broncos, Chargers, and Chiefs, it's going to be extremely tough to win those divisional games.
I don't really like this decision the more I think about it, but I've projected Las Vegas to finish last in the AFC West this year. However, I think there's still a chance they could make the postseason depending on how other teams across the conference fare.
To my knowledge, there has never been a season when an entire division has made the playoffs since the NFL realigned to form four-team divisions in 2002. But it has not been possible until a couple seasons ago because of the 2 wild card team format of the playoffs. Now that there are 3 wild card slots for each conference, odds are we could see that phenomenon occur eventually for the first time ever. If there's ever been a division that could do it, it would be this year's formidable AFC West.
What do you think? Will Las Vegas be better or worse than I'm projecting? What offseason moves made by the Raiders surprised you the most? Leave a comment down below and be sure to check the "NFL" section of the website for more NFL team guidebooks as I finish them.
Written by Nick Swatson