If you knew me, you’d know that I’m perceived by everyone around me as the eternal optimist when it comes to the Las Vegas Raiders. Their season win total is always disrespectfully low, last year’s fourth-round pick is definitely about to break out, and if not for the officials, we’d have won the Super Bowl last year.
All of which makes my sixth and final bold prediction so shocking: I think 2023 is going to be a tough one for Raiders fans like me — and it’s going to be clear right from the start. While the season starts in September, I don’t think Las Vegas removes the zero from their win column until the calendar turns to October.
In Week 1 the Raiders travel to Denver to face Sean Payton and the Denver Broncos — which is the most winnable game they’ll play all month, by my estimation, and yet they’re currently 4.5-point underdogs.
At Buffalo Bills in Week 2? Loss.
Pittsburgh Steelers at home in Week 3? Might seem winnable — but give me Mike Tomlin in that coaching matchup every day of the week.
At the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 4? While Los Angeles is a second home for the Raiders, nobody on their defense is going to be able to stop Justin Herbert and Co. (even with their improvements).
All of a sudden it’s October 9th, and the Green Bay Packers are coming to town on Monday Night Football with Josh McDaniels potentially coaching for his job. The good news? I think Jordan Love is overhyped and Matt LaFleur has been riding the coattails of Aaron Rodgers for the past few years (how’s that for bold?), so Week 5 is where the skid stops.
Now is when it’s worth pointing out that the Raiders’ win total in Vegas is 6.5 — and at 1-4 the under bettors are starting to count their winnings.
Then again, I think the Raiders are going to make them sweat for it.
New England Patriots in Week 6? Mac Jones stinks, we’ve got ourselves a winning streak!
At the Chicago Bears in Week 7 for an early morning 10 a.m. game? Sure, why not? Who said Josh McDaniels can’t coach baby?
Now comes gravity — whatever goes up must ultimately come down.
At Detroit Lions? Loss.
Home for the New York Giants? Darren Waller’s revenge game: loss.
Home for the New York Jets? Rodgers is a clown, but their defense is for real. Loss.
At the Miami Dolphins? The curse of the 10 a.m. East Coast game strikes again. Loss.
All of a sudden the Raiders are 3-8, and it hits you: they haven’t even played the Kansas City Chiefs yet.
In Kansas City, the week of Thanksgiving? Loss.
After the bye, they get Captain Kirk and Justin Jefferson, which makes me wonder… Who exactly is guarding Justin Jefferson? Loss.
The season win total over is officially on life support.
Chargers at home? Normally I’d say they get one of two against the Chargers, but be honest with yourself: the Raiders are definitely tanking at this point, right? Loss.
At Chiefs? Loss.
At the Indianapolis Colts? Only die-hards (*raises hand*) and degenerates (*raises other hand*) are watching this game, but the Raiders tank well and lose again.
Finally, the season ends the way it began: with the Broncos — who might be fighting for a playoff spot, while the Raiders are making their warm weather plans. Another loss.
That’s right, folks: 3-14. It would be their fewest wins since 2014 and their worst win percentage since 2006 (2-14) — not to mention the agony of losing four straight to open the season and 11 straight to close it.
In all seriousness, I hope I’m wrong and that they’re more competitive than I’m giving them credit for — I just don’t see it. I don’t think McDaniels can coach up a team with such a large talent deficiency, I don’t think Jimmy Garoppolo plays more than 10 games this season, and I think the AFC West might be the toughest division in football.
Then again, if there’s a positive in all of this, it’s that next year’s quarterback class might feature multiple franchise-altering prospects — which only tells me the Raiders will win just enough games to find themselves picking fifth or sixth.