Raiders Season Win Total: 3 Reasons to Bet Under
The Raiders came into 2017 with high expectations. They had won 12 games in 2016, winning the AFC West in the process. But Derek Carr broke his leg midway through week 16 and the Raiders playoff hopes vanished. Carr was 100% healthy heading into 2017, and Sportsbooks felt the Silver and Black would have continued success and set the season win over/under line at 10 games. The Raiders never threatened 10 wins. They stood at 6-6 after week 13 and limped in with 4 losses. Coach Jack Del Rio was fired immediately after the season.
Raiders owner Mark Allen enticed Jon Gruden to come out of the broadcast booth and coach his team for the next 10 years for the paltry sum of $100 million. Bookmakers have endorsed the hiring by setting the 2018 over/under win total at 8.5. Bettors aren’t showing the same confidence in Gruden and are betting under, raising the price of 8.5 to -140 on the under. Paying the premium to take the under is still the play. Here are 3 reasons.
The Raider offense entered 2017 riding high, with expectations of building on their strong 2016 performance that included finishing the season 7th in scoring, and 6th in total yards. Unfortunately, the entire offense sputtered to start the season and never got on track. The offense, similar to the Panthers, never established an identity, sometimes trying to play as a smash mouth running team with Marshawn Lynch and sometimes trying to play with a high flying passing attack. Local hero Lynch was signed to replace Latavius Murray as the lead back but couldn’t live up to his Beast Mode reputation and didn’t get the heavy workload he had in his prime with Seattle. In the passing game, Carr and the receivers took a big step back. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper were mentioned as possibly the best 1-2 receiving combo coming into 2017, but Cooper struggled to get off of press coverage, and continued to plagued with drops. Cooper only eclipsed the century mark in yards in 2 games. He ended 2017 with 35 fewer receptions and 473 fewer yards than 2016. Crabree was inconsistent as well, finishing with only 58 catches and 618 yards. Carr takes at least some of the blame for the WRs regression and the teams fall to 23rd in the league in scoring and 17th in yards. Carr had 13 interceptions on his stat sheet, more than double his 2016 total.
Gruden will be working with the same crew in 2018, except that Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant replace Crabtree opposite of. Nelson was one of the best receivers in the game with Aaron Rogers throwing him the ball in 2015, but a torn ACL and father time rendered him unable to get separation, and the worst season of his career last year. Bryant is a high upside athletic freak but was not the same receiver last year after his 2016 suspension. Tight End Jared Cook was a nice addition in’17 and will be back in ’18. He hauled in 54 catches last year and should be a steady target for Carr. Gruden has committed to play Cooper in the slot this year, which should help him get off the line of scrimmage, but he and Carr have to get back to 2016 form if the Raiders are going to return to their 2016 success.
The ground game will look a lot like last year with Lynch returning, and Doug Martin joining the backfield to attempt to resurrect his career. The O-line added 1st round pick Kolton Miller who appears slotted to start at right tackle this year. He was considered a reach as a first round selection, but he will join a line that has talented players including All Pro Kelechi Osemele and Penn. The line was one of the best in ’16 before also regressing last year. Overall the Silver and Black offense is not much improved in 2018.
Oakland finished in the bottom half of the league in every defensive category in 2017. The secondary was especially bad, finishing 26th in yards, and last in interceptions with only 5 picks. Despite having one of the premier pass rushers in Khalil Mack get to the opposing QB 10½ times, the team finished 26th in sacks with only 31. This is not a case of defense falling off from the 2016 campaign, they were equally bad in that season. First round pick Gareon Conley missed all but 2 contests with a shin injury, and Aldon Smith couldn’t get past his off-field issues to suit up in Oakland. Navaro Bowman joined the team in week 6 and provided some stability.
Gruden brought in Paul Guenther from the Bengals to lead the D in ‘18. Guenther had some success in Cincy, but the talent level was a lot higher. Continuing the theme of reaching for players in the draft, PJ Hall of Sam Houston State was the Raiders second round pick. He was a stud defensive tackle in college but elevating his game from the Southland Conference to the NFL will be a challenge in 2018. Bowman was not re-signed, but Tahir Whitehead will take his spot after finishing 16th in the league in tackles for the Lions last year. A couple of free agents were signed to compete in the secondary, but nobody that moves the needle in the Raiders favor. The defense will again be one of the weakest in the NFL in 2018.
Davis is looking to market his Raiders to the Las Vegas market in preparation for their move to Sin City in 2020 and needed a coach that could inspire the fans. Setting aside the actual football responsibilities of a coach, “Chucky” is the perfect choice. He’s well known, entertaining, an eternal optimist, has a Super Bowl Championship on his resume and the perfect face of the franchise from a PR standpoint. From a coaching (and general manager) standpoint, he may prove to be far from perfect. Gruden returns to the sidelines after spending 10 years as Monday Night Football analyst. He led the Raiders from 1998 to 2001, including losing in the 2000 conference championship and in the 2001 to the Patriots in the famous Tuck Rule game. Gruden was then traded to the Buccaneers for a king’s ransom, where he proceeded to lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl win. Gruden would coach 6 additional years in Tampa earning a record of 45 wins against 51 losses.
During Gruden’s 7 years in Tampa, the Bucs were never in the top half of the league in points. He won the Super Bowl with a stifling defense left to him from previous coach Tony Dungy. Gruden made the playoffs just twice after the super bowl year. He has the reputation of a quarterback guru, but the Bucs passing offense was never in the top 10 under his command. It’s a stretch to think Gruden can sit out for 10 years and come back to lead the Raider’s revival. Gruden may be able to rebuild this iconic franchise, but that won’t happen with this sub-par roster.
Raiders under 8.5 wins is the play. Maybe the Silver and Black get back to the top of the league during Gruden’s 10-year tenure, but they don’t get to 9 wins this year.