Raiders appear to be real

Nov 6, 2019 3:03 AM

If you’ve ever been to a Golden Knights game in Las Vegas and there’s a power play for the home team, there’s a video of legendary broadcaster Brent Musburger exhorting the crowd to get loud, saying, “This power play is for real!”

He probably should’ve said, “NV Energy Power Play,” since everything the Knights do these days seems to have a title sponsor to it. But that’s a column for another day perhaps.

However, if we’re talking about what’s real, we should take a look at Las Vegas’ future NFL team. The Oakland Raiders are 4-4 and in a division that hasn’t exactly dominated, could Jon Gruden’s team actually make the playoffs?

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Let’s not forget the bookies here set the total wins for the Silver and Black at 5.5. Not exactly Tom Brady stuff. But lately, Derek Carr is showing he’s got some Brady in him and he looked pretty good matriculating the ball down the field in the 31-24 win against Detroit Sunday as the Raiders finally got to play a game in Oakland for the first time in eons, or specifically, Sept. 15.

With half a season still to play, could Chucky and the Black Hole dwellers find themselves involved with football come January? You can make a pretty good case for the yes, given the Chargers’ inconsistency, the Chiefs injury situation and the fact the AFC isn’t full of teams that strike fear in your heart.

Yeah, the Oakland defense remains somewhat sketchy. The Lions had plenty of chances to

win Sunday’s shootout at the Coliseum. But given where this team was when the season kicked off and where it’s at midway through the schedule, things are looking up.

Mike Mayock, the TV pundit turned general manager, did the right thing in cutting Antonio Brown. The other moves are also trending the right way though the Raiders probably wished Vontaze Burfict was on the field. But they knew what they were getting in Burfict when they brought him to Oakland so no one at the Raiders would be surprised the NFL grounded Burfict for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis’ Jack Doyle in Week 4. Repeat violators rarely get the benefit of the doubt.

But the Raiders are finding ways to compete and to win. They have a terrific running game built around rookie Josh Jacobs. Receivers Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams along with tight end Darren Waller are a nice trio of targets for Carr to throw to. The offensive line may be patchwork but it’s getting the job done.

Best of all, these Raiders have bought into Gruden’s ways, particularly the quarterback. There’s more accountability and the turnovers, bad penalties and missed assignments — trademarks of recent Raiders teams — are on the decline.

Yes, the schedule was less than kind to Mark Davis. But his team responded pretty well given the circumstances. They won at Indy. They beat the Bears in London. They should’ve beaten the Texans in Houston.

They’re still a .500 team, which is pretty amazing. Now, the schedule flips in the Raiders’ favor for the second half. The Chargers are in Oakland Thursday night. The winless Bengals come to the Coliseum 10 days later. Then it’s off to the Meadowlands to play the Jets, whose claim to fame this year is having lost to the then-winless Dolphins.

The rest of the slate has Oakland at Kansas City, home to the Titans and Jaguars, neither of who are world-beaters, and close out the season on the road against the Chargers, where there’ll be more people in Raiders gear in the stands, and at Denver, which will be less of an opponent than the potentially nasty winter weather in the Rockies.

If you bet the over on the 5.5 win total for the Raiders, Christmas will come early. If you think the team is making the playoffs, I wouldn’t tell you you’re crazy. After all, who in their right mind ever thought this team would be calling Las Vegas home? Or that the NFL would hold its draft here just off the Strip? Or that a Super Bowl is on the horizon at the beautiful under-construction Allegiant Stadium off Russell Road?

But here we are, in November, and Vegas’ future pro football team is finding a way to do what its late owner always said — just win, baby.

Too bad Al Davis wasn’t alive to see all that’s going on with his team. Ditto for former Nevada Governor Mike O’Callaghan, who was a great Raiders fan. I think they’d both be enjoying this.

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