Just when the Las Vegas Raiders seemed to be emerging as potential division winners, the AFC West became so wild that they could now finish last in 2022.
Former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has plenty of talent to work with, however, and the Silver and Black are known to often be at their best when considered as the underdog.
It's McDaniels' second opportunity as a head coach and it already seems he has learned from past mistakes by the way he has backed incumbent quarterback Derek Carr.
The Raiders made some aggressive personnel moves, such as making the trade with Green Bay for the Packers' former top-tier wideout Davante Adams.
So no one in Las Vegas is ready to write this coming season off as a bridge to something greater in the future as the Raiders remain in win-now mode.
NFL, 2022/23 season
Across the United States, games also scheduled for London, Munich and Mexico City
September 8th 2022 - February 12th 2023
|How to watch|
NFL Game Pass, ESPN, CBS, FOX, NBC, NFL Network
BUF Bills +600, TB Buccaneers +700, KC Chiefs +1000, LA Rams +1000, GB Packers +1200
2nd AFC West (10-7)
The Raiders ended a four-year playoff drought last season when interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, who did an outstanding job taking over when Jon Gruden stepped down, led them to four straight wins to close out the season.
They almost stopped the eventual AFC champion Bengals in their tracks until linebacker Germaine Pratt's interception on his own 2-yard line in the game's closing seconds gave Cincy the 26-19 win.
Loading up on talent on both sides of the ball this offseason - plus the Raiders' enticement of the game's foremost offensive coordinator of the last 15 years - has only increased expectations in Sin City.
Yet Las Vegas are +165 to make the playoffs this year because the rest of their division made even splashier moves and the Kansas City Chiefs remain the team to beat in the AFC West.
McDaniels' men are +135 to finish bottom of the pile in the AFC West, +220 to finish in third place and +400 to take the runner-up spot with +650 the price for a first Las Vegas division win since 2002.
The Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers will get to renew old rivalries straight out of the gate when they meet at SoFi Stadium in Week 1.
For the Chargers, it's a chance to avenge last season's heartbreaking Week 18 loss that saw Las Vegas advance to the playoffs instead.
For the Raiders, it's an opportunity to take down the team thought of as the biggest challenger to the Chiefs' dominance of the AFC West.
Khalil Mack, who won Defensive Player of the Year with 11 sacks for the Raiders in 2016, will be in a Chargers uniform for the first time and Las Vegas will expect a major pass rush from the tandem of Maxx Crosby and new recruit Chandler Jones.
The Silver and Black are +165 on the Money Line with the Chargers at -185 to get the opening-weekend win.
The games against the Chiefs will always stand out on the schedule because they have won the Raiders' division for six seasons running.
The unusual aspect about them this year is that the trip to Arrowhead Stadium, where the Raiders won two years ago, is on Monday night just before the team's bye week and the return clash at Allegiant Stadium is the final regular season game ahead of the playoffs both teams hope to be involved in.
The Week 11 trip to Mile High to face the Denver Broncos should be really significant for both teams' postseason chances.
The Raiders have won each of the last four head-to-head meetings, including the last two at Sports Authority Field.
And the home game against the Patriots in Week 15 could be just as pivotal as both teams finished 10-7 and made the playoffs last year.
This year's matchup has added spice with the recent defections of ex-New England director of player personnel Dave Ziegler and OC McDaniels to Las Vegas.
After playing a role in three Patriots Super Bowl championships, McDaniels was hired as head coach of the Broncos at the age of 33.
He was given almost as much power as his former boss Bill Belichick had at Foxborough and used it to trade starting quarterback as he tried to reshape the organization into something more like the Patriots.
He won his first six games as a head coach but then lost 17 of his next 22 and was fired amid a videotaping scandal.
Returning to New England after a brief stint as OC with the St Louis Rams, McDaniels was part of the Patriots staff on three more Super Bowl titles and became the Raiders' first choice when they interviewed for the head coaching position after the 2021 season.
In 2018, he accepted the Indianapolis Colts job before withdrawing from the position the same day he was announced to stay on with the Pats.
WR Davante Adams (Green Bay Packers)
CB Rock Ya-Sin (Indianapolis Colts)
QB Jarrett Stidham (New England Patriots)
LB Chandler Jones (Arizona Cardinals)
DL Bilal Nichols (Chicago Bears)
S Duron Harmon (Atlanta Falcons)
LB Kenny Young (Denver Broncos)
WR Mack Hollins (Miami Dolphins)
LB Jayon Brown (Tennessee Titans)
WR Keelan Cole (New York Jets)
WR Jordan Veasy (Houston Texans)
DL Tyler Lancaster (Green Bay Packers)
TE Jesper Horsted (Chicago Bears)
CB Chris Jones (Tennessee Titans)
WR Isaiah Zuber (Houston Gamblers)
S Matthias Farley (Tennessee Titans)
RB Brandon Bolden (New England Patriots)
OLB Kyler Fackrell (Los Angeles Chargers)
DL Kyle Peko (Tennessee Titans)
TE Jacob Hollister (Jacksonville Jaguars)
DE Yannick Ngakoue (Indianapolis Colts)
QB Marcus Mariota (Atlanta Falcons)
DL Quinton Jefferson (Seattle Seahawks)
DE Solomon Thomas (New York Jets)
WR Zay Jones (Jacksonville Jaguars)
WR Bryan Edwards (Atlanta Falcons)
LB Nick Kwiatkoski (Atlanta Falcons)
LB Cory Littleton (Carolina Panthers)
DE Carl Nassib (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
CB Brandon Facyson (Indianapolis Colts)
LB K.J Wright
OG Richie Incognito
WR DeSean Jackson
|Offensive MVP||Derek Carr|
|Defensive MVP||Maxx Crosby|
|Top rookie||OG Dyland Parham (3rd Round)|
|Breakout star||LB Divine Deablo|
This past offseason, the Raiders made Carr the fifth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL in terms of average annual salary.
The 31-year-old has the full backing of his new head coach, who could create an environment where Carr could even break the franchise's single-season record for passing yards (4,804) he established last year.
The arrival of his favorite college target Davante Adams, considered to be one of the best wide receivers in the league, should help.
Crosby's breakout third season finished with him being named second-team All-Pro and Defensive MVP of the Pro Bowl.
His final total of eight sacks was slightly down on his rookie season production, but he recorded a league-high 101 quarterback pressures last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Deablo, a college safety turned NFL linebacker, possesses a unique combination of imposing size and reactive speed to make him a true defensive star of the future.
He spent most of last season learning a new position but made an instant impact when earning regular snaps from Week 12 onwards, which coincided with the Raiders' best run of results.