Oakland Raiders 2019 season preview: Get ready for the adventures of Antonio Brown

ByESPN.com ESPN logo
Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Oakland Raiders are ranked No. 27 in ESPN's preseason Football Power Index. Here's everything you need to know about the Raiders heading into the 2019 NFL season:

The big question: Antonio Brown is all-in ... but for how long?

It's a fair question, since the wide receiver left camp for two weeks and sought treatment for his frostbitten feet, then took off again for a day after his grievance seeking to wear his old helmet was denied, setting up general manager Mike Mayock's ultimatum. Brown's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, swears Brown will play regardless of helmet type, and Brown has reconnected with Derek Carr in pregame warm-ups -- even if he has had to slow up on a couple of deep balls. Brown has averaged more than 11 targets per game since 2013. What happens if Carr can't get him the ball and the Raiders get off to a slow start? --Paul Gutierrez

Offseason in a nutshell

The roster is getting younger, faster and angrier. Or did you miss the Raiders also adding the likes of Vontaze Burfict and Richie Incognito along with the trade for Brown? Or a draft class full of players with football IQs as sterling as their off-the-field character scores? That class includes No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell, who should help the league's worst pass rush; 24th overall pick Josh Jacobs, who will be the featured running back despite carrying the ball only 251 times in college; and No. 27 pick Johnathan Abram, the talkative, hard-hitting safety who was feted with jersey No. 24, a huge honor in Raider Nation. "We got a young kicker, a young punter and a young snapper now," Gruden said. "So, to all the people that don't think I like young players, bah, humbug to all of them." --Gutierrez

Inside the Raiders' schedule

Most important game: Week 15 (Dec. 15) vs. Jacksonville. Say what? The moribund Jaguars? What kind of rivalry is that? What about the season opener against the Broncos, or Week 2 against the high-flying Chiefs? Hear me out, because not only is Jacksonville in town for the final home game of the season, but also the last Raiders game in Oakland, California. Ever. And if the Raiders are somehow still mathematically alive for a playoff bid, that makes this day all the more important. Viva Las Vegas, indeed.

Toughest stretch: Week 3 through Week 8. After playing at home Sept. 15, the Raiders do not play in Oakland again until Nov. 3. In that stretch, the Raiders go to Minnesota; Indianapolis; London to play "host" to old friend Khalil Mack and the Bears; Green Bay; and Houston. Those are all playoff-caliber teams (we'll see about the Andrew Luck-less Colts). A 1-6 start would shock very few outside the walls of 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, though a 4-3 beginning might be stunning for a team with arguably the toughest schedule and most mileage in the NFL.

Over or under 6.1 wins? Over. On pure talent alone, the Raiders are much improved from last season's ragtag 4-12 outfit. It's just ... that brutal schedule. Still, there is a certain vibe in Silver and Blackdom, a presence not felt since 2016, when Oakland went 12-4 and went to the playoffs. -- Gutierrez

Schedule ranking: No. 5

Oakland played the hardest schedule in the league in 2018, so it gets a little easier in 2019. But as with Denver, a schedule with the Chiefs, Chargers and NFC North comes out as pretty difficult in our projections. It doesn't help that the Raiders lose a home game to play Chicago in London. Somehow, all of the Raiders' road games got scheduled in pairs. That neutral London game against the Bears in Week 5 is the only time the Raiders don't play either at home or on the road in consecutive weeks. -- Football Outsiders | See the full 1-32 ranking

Breakout fantasy star: RB Josh Jacobs

The No. 24 overall pick in April's draft, Jacobs will step right in as the primary ball carrier in Oakland. That role should lead to immediate fantasy success, especially when you consider that of the 11 running backs selected in the first round prior to Jacobs, seven posted a top-10 fantasy campaign as rookies. An elusive and strong back with the ability to contribute as a receiver, Jacobs could push for 300 touches this season. -- Mike Clay | More fantasy coverage

The view from Vegas

Super Bowl odds: 60-1 (opened 150-1)

Over/under: 6 (O -105/U -115)

Playoff odds: Yes +475, No -650

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook as of Sept. 2.

Most interesting player prop

Over/under 89.5 receptions for Brown:

  • Gutierrez: Over, easily. Yeah, I know there were concerns about his frostbitten feet and his helmet woes, but he is in a good place now, right? Look, we're talking about a guy whose lowest target total in a single season since 2013 is 151, his highest in that time frame being 190. The offense will run through Brown, and Carr is no fool. He will feed him. The question is, will the offensive line give Carr enough time to dole out the grub?
  • Clay: Over. Brown caught 104 passes in 15 games last season and has cleared 100 receptions -- while ranking no lower than fourth at wide receiver in targets -- each of the past six seasons.

Bold prediction: Raiders will make the playoffs

The Raiders will win nine games, go to the playoffs as the third team from the AFC West and throw a scare into whomever they face. You wanted bold, right? As noted several times earlier, the Raiders' roster is much improved and Carr is the beneficiary. Gruden's offense will make a lot more sense to the quarterback, and the last time Carr played in the same system two years in a row, he played at a league MVP level. That was in 2016, when a broken leg suffered in Week 16 ended a dream season for Carr and the Raiders. Time for the dream to be revisited. -- Gutierrez

Where the Raiders landed in NFLRank

  • No. 27: WR Antonio Brown

Speed reads before the opener

  • Gutierrez: Can the Raiders' revamped (and massive) O-line protect Derek Carr?
  • Barnwell: What actually matters this NFL preseason, from AB to Jimmy G
  • Gutierrez:Josh Jacobs hungry for a shot at being Raiders' feature back
  • Seifert: The Antonio Brown helmet saga: Is the Raiders' ultimatum for real?
  • Schatz: Ranking the NFL's most likely worst-to-first teams for 2019

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