Everyone loves the flashy plays on offense that lead to highlight-reel touchdowns on the field, but nothing beats the satisfactory feeling of winning games by playing smash-mouth football – a style that has been the identity for the Las Vegas Raiders since 1960. As one of the last and true old-school football teams in the NFL, the Raiders are emerging as a legitimate team in the league, but are they considered contenders in 2020? Let’s find out.
The Wheat from the Chaff
The more you follow the NFL and other professional sports, the more you’ll hear labels for teams like “contenders”, “pretenders”, “rebuilders”, or anything in between, but what do they all mean? Well, let’s catch you up to speed. An NFL team labeled as a “contender”, as you can imagine, refers to them being one of the few teams who can contend for the Super Bowl in that given season. This group is comprised of only two or three teams depending on the season. There are rarely repeat teams that make into this group, but one of them is the Kansas City Chiefs, as they are always able to win it all with quarterback Patrick Mahomes under center. “Pretenders”, on the other hand, are teams that have the elite roster to be a contender, but they can’t win the big game(s). The Seattle Seahawks are a prime example of a pretender. Despite having such an overpowered offense, they always seem to lose their juice in the big moments. Then, of course, you have your “rebuilders” who are teams that are okay with losing games in the present, so that they can build up their young talent via the draft to win games in the future. An example of such a team would be the Miami Dolphins. If that’s still too much to grasp, think of it like this: teams are either winners (contenders), losers (pretenders), or losers with hope (rebuilders).
“I am Spartacus!” ~ Not Spartacus
Everyone, naturally, wants their favorite team to be a contender, but they’re simply not and for most, they won’t be anytime soon. This case can be made for the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys. They both have what seems to be a rock-solid roster on paper right? On the field, however, they’re moving dumpster fires in their own respective ways. For the Bears, they have 3x All-Pro edge rusher, Khalil Mack, along with numerous other fearsome defenders, but their offense is nothing more than a bunch of Care Bears wearing helmets. For the Cowboys, their offense is enough to make you pack an extra pair of shorts, but their defense looks more like a group of Patrick Stars in their cowboy costumes. So the question remains: Are the Las Vegas Raiders contenders in 2020? The answer may or may not surprise you. In the words of American Idol judge, Randy Jackson: “It’s a no for me dog”. However, what separates the Raiders from the Bears and Cowboys is that Las Vegas is still going through a rebuild. You see, while the Raiders are a great team right now, they have been retooling their entire roster for the future, whereas Chicago and Dallas have been struggling to win games for years.
It’s (Almost) Showtime
The Las Vegas Raiders are a dangerous team in the NFL, and as the 2020 regular season begins to wind down, they’ll be a team that few want to cross. When the smoke clears, the historic franchise will be sitting in a position where they’ll either make the playoffs, or they’ll make sure to eliminate as many teams from contention as they can. If they can make it to the playoffs, great! If not, no harm done, as they’ll only receive a better draft pick in compensation. The 2020 NFL season is a win/win situation for an organization that has given its fans little to cheer for since 2002. The young guns currently on the roster will gain invaluable experience after this season, especially after handing the Kansas City Chiefs, their divisional rival, their first and almost second loss on the season. In two years maximum, the Las Vegas Raiders will be legitimate contenders in the NFL for the Super Bowl.