Raiders

Antonio Brown, Derek Carr projected to have big 2019 season for Raiders

Antonio Brown, Derek Carr projected to have big 2019 season for Raiders

Antonio Brown was named to the Pro Bowl for the sixth straight season in 2018. He once again was one of the best players in the NFL, and led the league in touchdown receptions (15) despite missing one game. 

But that was on the Steelers, who had one of the best offenses in football with star power outside of Brown. How will his numbers translate to the Raiders, whose offense that ranked 23rd in total yards and 18th in passing yards?

Surprise, surprise -- Brown is projected to be a star for the Silver and Black. According to ESPN's projections, the wide receiver will have 102 receptions on 161 targets for 1,333 yards and 10 touchdowns. That would be an increase in yards, but a slight decrease everywhere else for Brown, who turns 31 years old in July. 

Don't act like those are down numbers though. Especially if you're a Raiders fan. Jordy Nelson led all Oakland receivers in 2018 with 63 receptions for 739 yards and three touchdowns. Brown immediately becomes WR1 on a team that badly needed an upgrade out wide. 

And then there's the quarterback. Fans might have missed it while the Raiders only won four games, but Carr improved across the board in multiple areas. He finished the season with 4,049 passing yards on a 68.9 completion percentage. The fifth-year pro also threw 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. 

[RELATED: How Raiders should navigate NFL free agency after Antonio Brown trade]

With the addition of Brown, Carr is projected to be even better in 2019. Here's how ESPN projects him to finish the year: 4,287 yards, 23 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 67 percent completion percentage. 

The AB effect is real. Immediately after the trade, the Raiders' Super Bowl odds improved, and their quarterback is expected to reap the benefits, too.

Al Davis never got over Raiders' Super Bowl loss to Bucs, Greg Papa says

Al Davis never got over Raiders' Super Bowl loss to Bucs, Greg Papa says

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

Al Davis hated to lose, no shock for someone synonymous with “Just win, baby.” The Raiders' longtime owner and football chief enjoyed plenty of success, building a perennial playoff contender with three Lombardi Trophies in the case.

Davis’ last chance at a fourth particularly hurt, especially after the Raiders got robbed by the Tuck Rule and lost in the AFC title game the two previous years.

A 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII wasn’t painful just because of built-up frustration.

There were several factors at play.

The first, and most obvious: The Raiders got trounced.

The pre-game setback (and massive distraction): his Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins wasn’t available after going on a bender the two days before -- Robbins's mental health made things more complicated than it originally seemed -- in a story that broke not long before the game. 

The real stinger: they lost to Jon Gruden, a head coach that Davis traded to Tampa Bay roughly a year before.

All that influenced a disastrous day at the office for Davis. It's discussed in great detail on Thursday’s episode of NBC’s “Sports Uncovered” podcast, which focuses on Robbin’s disappearance and its root causes, while looking at all reasons why the Raiders lost that Super Bowl.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Part of that analysis was Davis’ reaction to the end result. As you'd expect, he took it to heart.

NBC Sports Bay Area’s Greg Papa called Super Bowl XXXVII on the radio and was entrenched with the Raiders leading up to the game. The former, longtime voice of the Raiders was close to Davis and knew how much this loss hurt the late Raiders owner.

“Al was a sore loser to the highest level,” Papa said. “He didn’t tolerate losing. It just wasn’t part of his mentality … He was a fierce competitor, so whenever he lost, you could see it all over his face. He was a sore loser; a pissed-off loser, but this look on his face, it was the kind of look if someone told you that you had terminal cancer, your wife or husband was going to die or had died.

“It was just the look on his face. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the most painful expression. I honestly thought, he’ll never get over this. He’ll never -- even if they come back next year and win, he’s never going to get over this game.”

Papa knew that losing to Gruden exasperated that sentiment. Tampa Bay made an insane offer for Gruden: two first-round draft picks, two second-round picks and $8 million. For a coach. That’s insane, and Davis took an offer that would've been hard to logically refuse. The popular coach hoping for a contract extension with the Raiders was shipped across the country, only to lead his new team to victory over his old one. Locking horns and eventually losing to an ally-turned-motivated opponent was particularly difficult.

“I really believe he changed forever after that game,” Papa said. “He was never the same person. His body began to break down. … And he became maniacal, increasingly maniacal, about trying to over--, you know, to change it. To the day he died, I don’t think he ever got over that loss.”

Why Bucs too good for Raiders, even with Barret Robbins, in Super Bowl

Why Bucs too good for Raiders, even with Barret Robbins, in Super Bowl

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

Super Bowl XXXVII was visualized as a revival, the long-anticipated reemergence of all that once made the Raiders imposing and infamous and, at times, even magical.

They arrived in San Diego as four-point favorites longing to destroy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and soothe the residual ache of the "Tuck Rule" game of a year earlier.

But the oddsmakers got it wrong. Horribly wrong. The Bucs, guided by ex-Raiders coach Jon Gruden, prevailed, 48-21. There would be no parade in Oakland.

And after the Raiders were run out of Qualcomm Stadium, rationalizations were running rampant through certain factions of Raider Nation.

The Raiders would’ve won ... if not for the mysterious absence of Barret Robbins.

Would’ve won ... if Robbins had not disrupted team chemistry.

Would’ve won if ... B-Robb had not gone AWOL, throwing everything into disarray.

These assertions were but the plaintive whimpers of a wounded fan base seeking to place blame.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Understand, the 2002 Raiders were tremendous, winning their first two postseason games by a combined 37 points. They had an MVP quarterback, Rich Gannon, and three different receivers -- Hall of Fame wideouts Jerry Rice (age 40) Tim Brown (36) and also running back Charlie Garner -- each snagged more than 80 passes. Their defense, when healthy, was solid.

But the team that arrived in San Diego on the evening of Jan. 19, having dispatched the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game, was not the bunch that had been so terrific the previous four months.

Charles Woodson, the great cornerback, had mostly recovered from a shoulder injury sustained in mid-September that caused him to miss six weeks but was severely hampered by a fractured fibula sustained six weeks earlier. Limping his way through the week, he could offer no more than about 60 percent of his normal ability.

And that wasn’t the worst of it.

Robbins was hurting, too. He played well all season, was named to his first Pro Bowl, but the toll was unkind to his right ACL, which was reconstructed in 2001. He also had pain in one of his feet. Though he downplayed it, his discomfort was evident in observing him hobbling to and from media sessions. Robbins would undergo another knee surgery in February 2004.

Losing two stars was debilitating for the Raiders, but hardly the worst of it.

Head coach Bill Callahan, who issued a run-heavy playbook on Monday, seeing to exploit his team’s size advantage, decided on Friday to shift to a playbook emphasizing the pass. His players were stunned. Some, including Robbins, whose game was reliant on physicality, were angry.

As bad as that was, it wasn’t the worst of it.

The worst of it was Tampa’s sheer speed, for which Oakland had no antidote. The Bucs, the NFL’s No. 1 defense by a considerable margin, took the field like inspired tigers, taking leads of 20-3 at the half and 34-3 inside the last five minutes of the third quarter.

The most diabolical thought that could cross the mind of Raiders boss Al Davis came to life in what would be his last Super Bowl as a team owner. Davis had always placed a premium on finding speed and quickness -- sometimes to a fault -- and here were the younger, quicker Bucs making his team look old and sluggish.

Worse, these were Gruden’s Bucs. The popular coach an irritated Davis traded away 11 months earlier had come back to haunt him with a team that beat his old boss at his own game.

Gannon, 37, hardly had time to drop back before Tampa’s defense was scratching at his jersey. Left tackle Lincoln Kennedy couldn’t contain Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice, who accounted for two of Tampa’s five sacks. Pressured all afternoon, Gannon threw five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns.

Tampa free safety Dexter Jackson had two interceptions was named MVP. Backup cornerback Dwight Smith also picked off two passes, returning both for touchdowns of 44 and 50 yards. Linebacker Derrick Brooks was a blur, making seven tackles (six solo). Strong safety John Lynch had six tackles.

[RELATED: Robbins' downfall was a product of Raiders' party culture]

Had the Raiders been fully healthy, with Woodson generating turnovers and Robbins using brute force to foster a ball-control ground game, they might have made the day a bit more interesting. Maybe.

But not likely. The Raiders played right into the hands of the Bucs, who were too well prepared by Gruden and too swift on defense to be taken down.