Why the Las Vegas Raiders Will Make the Playoffs in 2020

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The Las Vegas Raiders enter the 2020 season in a peculiar situation. They still are not good enough to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West crown but are not bad enough to finish in last place in the division. Despite finishing with a 7-9 record last season, the popular train of thought, from the media, seems to be that of the Raiders struggling to reach five wins. It is time we put this ridiculous notion to bed and break down why the Raiders will make the playoffs in 2020.

Why the Las Vegas Raiders Will Make the Playoffs in 2020

Offense

In 2019, the Raiders struggled stretching the field. At times it seemed like head coach Jon Gruden was using the same playbook from his first stint with the Raiders. The offense would consistently have to put together lengthy drives just to put points on the board. There was no explosiveness to the offense, and the Raiders would constantly find themselves dinking-and-dunking their way up and down the field. This was likely due to a combination of a lack of talent from the receiving group, and the timid nature of current franchise quarterback, Derek Carr. Entering the off-season, it was clear that the Raiders needed to become much more dynamic on the offensive side of the ball. Enter the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Raiders spent three of their first four picks on offensive playmakers. Henry Ruggs III, Lynn Bowden Jr., and Bryan Edwards are all highly touted rookies that are expected to contribute early and often. Do not be surprised if the Raiders roll into Week 1 with a starting receiver group that consists of Ruggs and Edwards on the outside, with Hunter Renfrow at the slot. Those additions, along with another year of development for Darren Waller and the snubbed Rookie of the Year, Josh Jacobs, and it is easy to see why there is some hype starting to build around this unit. The pieces are there. It is now on Carr to push the ball down the field and put an end to the third-down throwaways.

Defense

With as many holes and injuries as the Raiders had on both sides of the ball, it is amazing to think that they somehow still managed to win seven games last season. Those aforementioned holes were ever prevalent on the defense in 2019. The second and third levels of the defense, in particular, were where the majority of the issues seemed to reside. The Raiders consistently struggled defending intermediate and deep routes, likely due to the lack of talent at the linebacker and defensive back positions. The lone bright spot came from the defensive line; specifically, Defensive Rookie of the Year nominee, Maxx Crosby.

With a very strong sense of self-awareness, the Raiders knew how important it was to get some veteran and talented players on the defensive side of the ball during free agency. Within the first few days, linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski were signed to come in and be immediate starters. The secondary was addressed as well,  with the additions of Damarious Randall, Jeff Heath, and first-round rookie Damon Arnette. These additions improved the weakest components of the defense and will allow defensive coordinator Paul Guenther much more freedom and flexibility in his play-calling.

Getting the Raiders to the Playoffs

The biggest caveat to all of this is the current quarterback situation. Even if Carr struggles early, Marcus Mariota is still considered to be a quality quarterback in this league. It is not hard to imagine a scenario similar to that of the Tennessee Titans last season, only this time Mariota will get to take on the role of Ryan Tannehill. It will be up to Carr to revert to his former MVP candidate self and lead this team to where it needs to be: the playoffs. With that being said, fans of the Raiders should be very optimistic entering the 2020 season. Despite what the media and naysayers might think, the culmination of these off-season additions will result in a playoff birth for the new Las Vegas team.

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