Raider Bets: 2021 Season Predictions

Welcome to the second edition of Raider Bets. 

In the past week, the Raiders defeated the Seahawks, Travis Kelce lost his mojo, Zay Jones showed off his and last edition’s recommended wager — the under on John Brown’s receiving total — dropped 70 yards to o/u 550.5. So this column’s mojo isn’t looking too bad either.

Don’t fret if you missed last week’s wager, as there are more good bets where that came from. This week, those bets will come in the form of season predictions, where there are some reasons for optimism.

Early returns are good on the young offensive line, Bryan Edwards appears ready to ascend and it’s statistically improbable the Raiders will have a bottom-five defense again. It’s not a one-hundred percent lock, but it is five percentage points better than the success rate of Brian Fantana’s favored cologne:

Tej Seth on Twitter: “if your team’s defenses finished bottom-5 in 2020, there’s a good chance they won’t in 2021!-65% finish outside of the top-5 the next year-37.5% finish in the top-half of the league the next yearbottom-5 defenses in 2020:-TEN-LV-JAX-HOU-DET / Twitter”

if your team’s defenses finished bottom-5 in 2020, there’s a good chance they won’t in 2021!-65% finish outside of the top-5 the next year-37.5% finish in the top-half of the league the next yearbottom-5 defenses in 2020:-TEN-LV-JAX-HOU-DET

This optimism, however, is not shared by the sportsbooks. Below are the available wagers on DraftKings: 

There’s only one word to describe the sportsbooks’ outlook on the Raiders: bearish. Consider the following:

  • The Raiders have better odds to go 0-17 than they do to win the Super Bowl
  • The Raiders are listed as almost twice as likely to earn the number one draft pick as they are to win the AFC West
  • The Raiders have better odds to win fewer than 6 games than they do to have a winning record 

Ouch. That’s a whole lot of pessimism and negativity in one chart. But, if you peel back the onion, there are some reasons to believe the Raiders could be good:

  • Top 5 Offensive Coach: If Jon Gruden were your Instacart shopper, he’d deliver stale bread, overripe tomatoes and substitute your favorite mozzarella for the vegan variety. But, as chef, he’d somehow turn those ingredients into a **** good panzanella. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the fourth-best play caller in the NFL, ahead of other highly regarded offensive gurus, such as Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan.
  • Top 15 Quarterback: He’s generated less tabloid interest than a certain other pined-for Californian quarterback who currently resides in Green Bay and he’s not as young and flashy as some hotly touted first-round picks, but Derek Carr delivers one unsexy bottom line: reliability. PFF ranks Derek Carr as the thirteenth-best quarterback and Football Outsiders projects him to have a productive year.
  • Positive Defensive Regression: Warren Sharp predicts the Raiders to have the easiest schedule of offenses and further points out that “when you’re drawing a non-division schedule of offenses, this one is pretty good for a struggling defense to draw.” Meanwhile, as stated earlier, historically bottom-five defenses don’t maintain that standing. 

Add it all together and you have an offense that should be good, a defense that should be better and a schedule that should be favorable. Let’s take a closer look at the bets where Raider fans have a potential advantage over the house.

Best Bets:

Raiders Over 7 wins (-110)

Only six teams have a lower win total than the Raiders. And none of those teams have a Super Bowl-winning coach and top-15 quarterback. Take a look at some win projections:

None of the above have the Raiders below 7 wins. Furthermore, not only does PFF have the Raiders at 9.1 wins, but they also have the Raiders going over 7 wins 82.8% of the time. This is the safest Raiders futures bet to be made and a good omen, even for non-betting fans.

Wager: +1 unit

Raiders to Finish 2nd in AFC West (+550)

The Chiefs are well-deserved favorites, the Broncos are talented but have the division’s worst quarterback and the Chargers have the cursed luck of a pyramid looter. The sportsbooks predict a last-place finish for the Raiders, but the PFF simulation predicts the Raiders to win more games (9.1) than the Broncos (7.5) and Chargers (8.2). This is a solid bet at favorable odds. 

Wager: +0.5 unit

Raiders Over 404.5 Points (-110)

This one’s simple. The 2020 Raiders scored 434 points. Despite an unproven offensive line, the 2021 edition should be at least that good. Not to mention, there’s an extra game this season. All told, the Raiders would need to average 23.8 points per game to score 405 points. Last season, 19 teams averaged more than that.

Wager: +0.5 unit

Also Consider:

Raiders to Win the AFC West (+2200)

This is not a bet I’ll be making as the Chiefs are simply too talented. But the math supports it as a worthy flier. At +2200, breakeven is 4.35%, whereas PFF projects the Raiders winning the division 18.9% of the time. If you’re truly bullish on the Raiders odds, this is your bet. 

Next Up: Player Predictions

Twitter: @TravisGilkeson