The rankings are out, and the results are now official – if you had Dak Prescott in the Cyber Monday jersey sales derby, you win. Fanatics.com released the standings Wednesday, and they once again proved that even if you come out of Starkville, Miss., if you nail down the quarterback job in Dallas and get the Cowboys to win, you’re going to be a popular guy.
Ezekiel Elliott proved that the theorem also works for running backs out of Ohio State who do right by America’s Team. He finished second in the jersey count, which brings us to the third and fourth best-selling shirt salesmen on the first Monday after Black Friday – Derek Carr and Khalil Mack.
The quarterback and the defensive end represented Raider Nation well in the online sales of numbers 4 and 52 in silver and black, just as they have for their team this NFL season. The Raiders, at 9-2, are tied with New England for the best record in the AFC.
In off-the-field developments, it also appears that their current hometown, Oakland, has moved to within striking distance of Las Vegas in the challenge to see which city the Raiders will play in for their long-term future.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie told reporters this week that he has put together a team that is “built to last.” The only question is where?
Oddsmakers have posted the Raiders at 12-1 to win the Super Bowl, making them the fourth favorite among the league’s 32 teams. Nobody has put a line on the Raiders’ future residence.
Stan Kroenke is building a stadium in Inglewood that will be open to a Raiders tenancy if the Chargers don’t want to sweep up behind his Rams. Las Vegas is trying to lure the Raiders into the Nevada desert with a $1.9 billion stadium proposal, with $650 million to be ratcheted forth by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Raiders owner Mark Davis is putting up $500 million, most of which is not his. Southern Nevada tourists, who so far have not been heard from on the matter, will be on the hook for $750 million.
This week, through the reporting of Andy Ross and Phil Matier in San Francisco, we heard the first details on Oakland’s pitch to keep the Raiders. Ronnie Lott apparently has gained an assurance of $600 million through the Fortress Investment Group out of New York City. The city of Oakland and county of Alameda might be good for $200 million for infrastructure, and sources told Ross and Matier that the plan calls for $200 million from the NFL and $300 million from Davis.
Sadly, the Raiders’ owner has publicly repledged his commitment to Las Vegas. But Oakland fans need to know that he could get in big legal trouble in Las Vegas if he blows off Sin City in the papers. If NFL owners follow the wisdom of their commissioner and block a move to Las Vegas, Davis will have the cover he needs to fend off Adelson and his pals and negotiate with Oakland.
Raiders fans in Las Vegas will understand – if they’re really Raiders fans.
Meanhwhile, the Raiders will play Buffalo on Sunday at the Coliseum.
As the final month of the NFL regular season unfolds, Oakland will continue to test the adage that although offense entertains the masses, defense wins championships.
Statistically speaking, the Raiders’ defense is last in yards-per-game among the 14 teams that currently qualify for the playoffs. And they are second to last among the same 14 in points allowed. But due to their impressive offense, which is fourth in yardage and third in scoring, the Raiders remain the fourth Super Bowl favorite among the oddsmakers cited by ESPN. New England, Dallas and Seattle run one, two and three, respectively.
Some experts have described the Raiders’ defense as a “work in progress.” As for what the finished product might look like, Oakland defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. told reporters Thursday, “We want to be depended upon to make the plays that we’re supposed to make. We want to play to the highest of our ability.”
Norton said defense is “about the situations,” as well as points and yards. Among the ones he mentioned, the Raiders are fourth best in the league in stopping teams on third down, and they’re third in the league in turnover margin at plus-10, thanks to the defense, which has 19 takeaways, as well as the offense, which has given up only nine. In red-zone defense, the Raiders are in the top half of the league in preventing touchdowns. Norton also brought up two-minute defense and first-down yardage as important metrics, even if laymen can’t possibly find them on Google.
“All those things make up you win at the end of the day,” Norton said. “That’s our emphasis.”
Nine-and-two makes for a pretty good argument on behalf of the Raiders’ defense, even if it is premature to put it on a Cyber Monday jersey.