The Las Vegas Raiders are coming off an 8-8 campaign which brought forth more questions than answers about the team's future. Is Derek Carr the quarterback who can get the most out of this offense? Is Henry Ruggs III on "bust watch?" And why can't this team find any consistency? Maybe 2021 will be the year when things finally turn around for this squad -- when their young talent takes a big step forward.
The Raiders reside in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, but could they steal a wild-card spot this season? Below, we will examine three bold predictions for Las Vegas as the Raiders gear up for their first real season in "Sin City" with fans in the stands.
Trevon Moehrig makes an immediate impact as a rookie
Maybe the Raiders' first-round pick of Alex Leatherwood was a little controversial, but they put those worried at ease with the selection of Moehrig with the No. 43 overall pick. The TCU product was seen as the top safety in this draft, and while he was arguably a first-round talent, he fell down draft boards because of a reported back issue. This doesn't seem like something that's going to hold him back moving forward, however, and he is expected to start immediately at free safety. What makes Moehrig so enticing as a prospect is his versatility, but his coverage ability is impressive as well. According to PFF, Moehrig had a 92.8 career coverage grade at TCU, which ranked highest among safeties in this past NFL Draft. The Raiders pass defense struggled last year, as it allowed an average of 263.3 passing yards per game, which ranked No. 26 in the league. Our prediction is that Moehrig comes in and helps this defense immediately. Maybe we have an emerging dynamic duo at safety with Moehrig and Johnathan Abram.
Can the Raiders' defense step it up this season? Will Henry Ruggs break out? Get the CBS Sports app and find out, all from our team of veteran insiders. If you have the app, set the Raiders as your favorite team for even faster updates.
Henry Ruggs III goes for 900 receiving yards
The first-round pick out of Alabama, who caught 40 passes for 746 yards and seven touchdowns in his final season in Tuscaloosa, caught just 43 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns during his rookie season with the Raiders. While he dealt with a few injuries and missed three games, Ruggs did flash at times. He caught two passes for 118 yards and a touchdown in the big Week 5 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs and then the 46-yard game-winning score against the New York Jets in Week 13. Still, he wasn't targeted more than five times in any game and wasn't the explosive weapon many hoped he would be. We predict that changes this season. CBS Sports' Chris Towers lists Ruggs as a fantasy afterthought who could reach must-start status in 2021:
"He averaged 10.5 yards per target and caught 60.5% of them, a very solid number for a player with a 17.4 yard ADoT. He was a disappointment based on his draft stock, but Ruggs didn't outright fall on his face. He is seemingly locked into a first-team role and while I don't think he'll ever be a true Alpha No. 1 WR, his WR58 price is well worth taking a flier on."
Ruggs may not be an "Alpha No. 1" right now, but with his speed and big-play ability, he could be the Raiders' leading "receiver" behind Darren Waller. We say the Raiders finally start making it a point to get him the ball, and he puts up at least 900 receiving yards -- which is more than any fantasy football outlet is projecting.
Raiders make the playoffs
The Raiders haven't made the playoffs since 2016, but we'll go bold and say that changes in 2021. Let's take a look at potential wild card teams in examining the prospective playoff picture for this upcoming season. Last year, the AFC North stole two playoff berths while the Indianapolis Colts took the other. While many are ready to write off the Pittsburgh Steelers, they could again secure a wild card spot and the AFC North could send three teams to the postseason yet again. The Colts are a huge question mark with Carson Wentz taking over under center, so there could be one spot several teams will be fighting for. Double-digit wins will be needed for this bold prediction to come to fruition, and the Raiders have the eighth-toughest schedule, according to opponents' combined 2020 win percentage. Still, if the Raiders can go 4-2 against the AFC West again, it's very possible to reach that 10-7 mark. The Raiders suffered two losses by a total of four points in the last three weeks of the season that would have kept them in the playoff hunt, and the ridiculous 37-point loss to a bad Atlanta Falcons team in Week 12 didn't help either. We predict this team finds a way to maintain some consistency and finishes off a strong season with a playoff appearance.