The Las Vegas Raiders are one of the surprising 2-0 teams in the NFL, but there are signs they’re a serious playoff contender.
Take away the cache of opening their new home, and the Las Vegas Raiders seemed to have little chance to beat the New Orleans Saints last Monday night. But after falling behind 10-0 and 17-7, they got on track and moved to 2-0 with a 34-24 victory.
Derek Carr gets rightfully critiqued for being hesitant to thrown downfield, but he went 28-for-38 for 282 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints. Running back Josh Jacobs was not particularly productive on the ground in the game (88 yards), but his 27 carries and three catches made him a critical piece of the game plan. And we can’t forget tight end Darren Waller, who had 12 catches (on 16 targets) for 103 yards and a touchdown against New Orleans.
The Raiders had the ball for over 36 minutes against the Saints, as they went 10-for-17 on third down, 2-for-2 on fourth down and were gifted five more first downs by penalties. Add in their 6-for-11 against the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, and the Raiders have the second-best third down conversion rate in the league through two weeks (57.1 percent).
The Raiders have a winning formula
When the defense still isn’t that good (26th in yardage allowed through two games, with one takeaway), the offense staying on the field is critical to the Raiders winning games.
Carr has not thrown an interception in 68 pass attempts this season, with two fumbles (one lost) in Week 1. He is top-10 in the league in completion percentage (73.5 percent), passer rating (114.9) and touchdown passes (four). Head coach Jon Gruden’s assertion that he’s a “great quarterback” is a reach, but Carr is doing exactly what he needs to do through two games.
The Raiders will get a stern test in Week 3, as they will travel to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots. A win would put the rest of the AFC on notice, but even a good showing in a loss would say something. After that, they’ll play the Buffalo Bills at home and the Kansas City Chiefs on the road before a Week 6 bye.
An extra playoff team this year will keep more teams in contention for longer. Elsewhere in the AFC West the Denver Broncos are an injury-riddled 0-2, and while the Los Angeles Chargers tested the Chiefs in Week 2 they are a couple plays going the other way away from being winless themselves. So the Raiders look like real playoff contenders, and the results of their next three games actually won’t change that too dramatically.