Oakland Raiders Overcome Odds to Make Playoffs, Davis Remains Committed to Vegas

Posted on: December 19, 2016, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: December 19, 2016, 12:40h.

The Oakland Raiders are headed to the NFL Playoffs after a 14-year drought. On Sunday, the black and silver outlasted divisional foe San Diego 19-16 to clinch a playoff berth.

At 11-3, the Raiders are going to play extra games for the first time since 2002, a shocking development for a team that is much rumored to be trying to skip town to Las Vegas.

Oakland Raiders Mark Davis Las Vegas
Mark Davis’ Oakland Raiders are going to the playoffs, but the larger, perhaps more important question for Bay Area fans is whether the team’s also going to Las Vegas. (Image: Rob Carr Camp/Getty Images)

After going 4-12 in 2013 and 3-13 in 2014, the Raiders righted the ship in 2015 by turning around their play and ending the year 7-9. With a strong free agency offseason, there was some warranted optimism heading into this year’s regular season.

However, the odds on Oakland making the postseason remained relatively slim.

Before week one, the Westgate SuperBook had the Raiders at +350 to win the AFC West. The Denver Broncos (+125), the current defending Super Bowl Champions, and the Kansas City Chiefs (+150) entered with much stronger odds to win the division.

But the Raiders now control their AFC West destiny. Win the final two games, and the division is theirs.

Regardless, they’re going to the playoffs. Quarterback Derek Carr, who has helped lead the Raiders’ resurgence, said after Sunday’s win, “I was very excited, very joyful, looking around the stadium and seeing our fans just going crazy.”

Does Davis Want to Win?

Raiders owner Mark Davis is currently working diligently to move his franchise to Las Vegas. Though he can’t file relocation paperwork until January, and if a move is approved wouldn’t likely take place until 2019 at the earliest, it’s unclear of the Raiders’ newfound winning ways are good for the organization’s leadership.

Davis has worked with Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson to acquire funding to build a $1.9 billion stadium just steps from the Strip. Nevada is pledging $750 million in hotel occupancy taxes to compliment $500 million from the Raiders and $650 million from the casino billionaire.

Ironically, the team the Raiders beat to make the playoffs, the Chargers, are also in talks to leave their host city. The franchise is expected to make its case to join the Rams in Los Angeles this offseason.

With so much enthusiasm in Oakland, moving the team to Las Vegas might be a tough sell for Davis. He would need 24 of the league’s 32 owners to endorse the transfer.

No Goodell Tidings

Due to Vegas’ legalized sports betting, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has supported keeping the Raiders in the Bay Area. That sentiment seems to be growing among football fans.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (D) is working with a group of private investors that includes former NFL star Ronnie Lott to build a new stadium for the Raiders. Goodell says no one should get his or her hopes up.

“These issues have been going on for an awful long time,” Goodell told reporters after an NFL owners meeting last week. “Ultimately it’s for the community to decide.”

By NFL rules, casino owners cannot also own shares of NFL franchises. There’s recently been speculation that Davis and Adelson’s collusion is a clever way for the latter to reap the benefits of professional football in Sin City.

Adelson’s fellow casino colleagues, however, say the mission isn’t financial but philanthropic. MGM CEO Jim Murren opined recently that no sound businessman would privately fund such a colossal venue, and that the $1.9 billion stadium is simply a legacy project for the Las Vegas Sands tycoon.