Oakland Raiders Shine on “Sunday Night Football,” Take AFC West Lead

Posted on: November 7, 2016, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: November 7, 2016, 01:54h.

Oakland Raiders Las Vegas Mark Davis
Oakland Raiders fans are rallying around the team’s strong play in an effort to persuade owner Mark Davis into keeping the franchise in California. (Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

The Oakland Raiders players don’t get to decide whether they’ll play in Las Vegas in the coming years, but they do possess the power to dictate how the franchise will potentially conclude its time in the San Francisco Bay Area.

While professional sports teams rumored to be relocating often underperform, the Raiders are wildly exceeding all pre-season expectations. Through week nine of the NFL regular season, the Raiders are 7-2 and sit on top of the AFC West.

Should the strong play continue, the chances of the Oakland Raiders becoming the Las Vegas Raiders might become more far-fetched. Last night, the Raiders beat the Denver Broncos 30-20, the current NFL champions, on “Sunday Night Football.”

“We know we’re a good team,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said afterwards. “We’re growing to expect success.”

NFL analysts expected something quite different.

ESPN’s NFL experts predicted the Raiders to finish third in the AFC West behind the Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. But now more than halfway through the season, the Raiders are positioned to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Betting on Vegas

A total of $1.9 billion in funding is in place in Sin City to construct a 65,000-seat domed NFL stadium just steps from the Strip. Las Vegas Sands billionaire Sheldon Adelson has committed $650 million, Raiders owner Mark Davis has pledged $500 million, and Nevada is providing $750 million by increasing the hotel occupancy tax in Clark County by 0.88 percent.

The only thing still up in the air is the football team itself.

Though NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell continues to support keeping the Raiders in Oakland and the league away from Vegas’ legalized sports betting books, there seems to be more than enough support among the league’s ownership. Twenty-four of the 32 owners would need to sign off on Davis’ wishes to move to Nevada.

The Raiders entered the season with odds of winning the Super Bowl at around 60 to one. Today, Sportsbook.ag has Oakland at 18/1, and Bovada has them at +1600, the fifth-best odds of any team in the league.

Should Oakland make a deep run in the playoffs, Davis’ decision to officially appeal to the NFL ownership to move to Las Vegas would presumably be much more difficult.

Ratings Fumble Again

There’s plenty of excitement in Oakland after the Raiders won their third straight game, but in the NFL league offices, concerns over falling television viewership remains rampant.

Sunday’s primetime game between the underdog Raiders and the defending champion Broncos sounded good on paper, but fans weren’t overly enticed.

The NBC broadcast pulled in 15.38 million viewers. Since 2010, “Sunday Night Football” has averaged over 21 million viewers per game throughout each season.

However, it’s a considerable bump on last Sunday’s game between the Cowboys and Eagles that pulled in just 11.6 million viewers. The Cowboys and Eagles game was directly up against game five of baseball’s World Series contest featuring the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians.

The NFL, now clear of postseason baseball, will look to reverse its stagnant numbers. NFL viewership is down around 11 percent in 2016.