Photo: Associated Press

HENDERSON, NV – Thanks to an impressive 26-17 road upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2-0 Las Vegas Raiders are looking like a smart early season bet.

While many detractors, haters and critics will point out that it is only the first two games of what appears to be a 17-game campaign of attrition—thanks to a league-wide rash of injuries already—Jon Gruden’s crew has the look of a dangerous team that can wreak havoc.

While all the off-season headlines were about fellow division rivals in Kansas City and Los Angeles in reaping praise on Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, while it may be right to talk up Mahomes—and rightfully so—the off-season coronation of Herbert looks a bit premature.

Clearly, they must have forgotten about Vegas’ one-time NFL MVP candidate in Derek Carr, who is already playing at a high level in leading the NFL in yards (817) and in the top ten in touchdowns (4) by throwing to one of the league’s top tight ends in Darren Waller, one of the best young running backs in Josh Jacobs and one of the fastest wideouts in Henry Ruggs.

It’s okay, because the Raiders thrive on being the forgotten ones, and appear to be using the off-season slights as bulletin board material. On the other side of the ball, the Silver and Black’s defense looks like the real deal, thanks to a disruptive pass rush led by Maxx Crosby and Solomon Thomas led by new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley that smothered and terrorized Lamar Jackson at home and Ben Roethlisberger on the road.

Yes, the Raiders have had a history of starting off hot and stumbling down the stretch late, but somehow, this 2021 squad just looks and feels different.

While it is way too early to tell, despite the Raiders playing in the middle of a desert, the Silver and Black don’t appear to be a mirage this time.



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