LAS VEGAS — Memo to all of the excellent real-estate brokers here in Southern Nevada: Derek Carr of the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders can afford a very nice home.
The quarterback who has led the Raiders’ resurgence signed a five-year contract worth $125 million, including a $70 million guarantee. The $25 million average is the richest in NFL history.
Perhaps more important, though, is that Carr probably won’t cash most of the contract until the final two years. By then the Raiders will be based here in Nevada. That would be the no-state-income-tax Nevada, an asset that should help the Raiders entice free agents in the future. Just ask the Cowboys and Texans – and the Dolphins, Buccaneers and Jaguars – because they are also in states without an income tax.
Of course it takes more than just financial incentive to lure players. It has become clear that Mark Davis has that in general manager Reggie McKenzie, who has put together a team built for a playoff run. If Carr had not broken his leg, it might have happened last season. A fully healed leg, though, means last year’s expectations could be this year’s reality.
I know that a lot has been written about McKenzie’s signing of running back Marshawn Lynch, who a year ago was inducted into the Las Vegas Bowl Hall of Fame. But a question remains about the former Seattle battering ram about how much he has left in the tank for the long, grueling, unpredictable trail that comes with an NFL season.
What Lynch does have in front of him is perhaps the best middle of an offensive line in the NFL. Guards Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele are on either side of Rodney Hudson – a center I am very familiar with from his days at Florida State. It is a tribute to McKenzie that he signed Osemele and Hudson as free agents and drafted Jackson out of Mississippi State in the third round three seasons ago.
From a betting standpoint here in Las Vegas, a quarterback with a new contract can focus on getting Ws, which Davis’s father always preached when he said “Just win, baby.” Even though there is no doubt that this is already Las Vegas’ team, bettors should beware of jumping on the 'over' 9½ wins that South Point has set as a total this season for the Raiders. That is because there is a minefield on the schedule after the bye, and it runs from Nov. 19 through Christmas.
Nov. 19 – The Raiders return to México City to play the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Nov. 26 – Home for Denver.
Dec. 3 – Home for the New York Giants.
Dec. 10 – A tricky road trip to meet arch rival Kansas City.
Dec. 17 – Back to Oakland to host the Dallas Cowboys.
Dec. 25 – The brutal stretch takes them Christmas night to Philadelphia.
You might not want to blindly pull the trigger on a 10-win season for the Raiders, because somewhere in there they figure to slip up at least once or twice.
But to give you an idea of the Las Vegas loyalty already on display, the Raiders opened at South Point at 15-2 to win the AFC. They have been bet down to 6-1, behind the Patriots (3-2), the Steelers (4-1) and alongside the Broncos (6-1).
That brings us to another alert. The Broncos being in the same division means that the Raiders have to deal with that one serious contender twice. New England plays the Raiders, Steelers and Broncos just once each. Pittsburgh plays the Patriots once and does not even have to face the Raiders and Broncos.
Rather than betting on whether the Raiders survive all that, it might be wise to follow the Raiders closely and make weekly bets on them. And try not to let your heart get in the way.
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Congratulations to Golden Knights owner Bill Foley on what was acclaimed to be an outstanding opening night when they drafted their team in front of a packed house at the T-Mobile Arena. The crowd included my producer Jonathan Von Tobel, who went down there as a fan.
“It was amazing,” he said. “There were a lot of locals with a lot of Golden Knights gear. Forever we’ve been waiting for this moment. It was awesome.”
It is clear that former Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-André Fleury has stepped into the role as the face of this new franchise. Not only did he rock the house when his selection was announced Wednesday, but he returned to the arena the next morning to purchase T-shirts for his family on his way back home.
Perhaps Fleury will follow in the footsteps of John Vanbiesbrouck, who is still the best expansion goalie in NHL history. He was chosen in 1993 by the Florida Panthers to be their cornerstone. Within three years he led them to the Stanley Cup Final. Let’s hope that Foley and the Golden Knights enjoy the same kind of success.
For now the Golden Knights are a 150-1 long shot to win the Stanley Cup, and my guys in the desert at South Point predict there will be a lot of early money coming in on them. But the same lesson with the Raiders applies here, too. Don’t let your rooting interest get in the way of making a winning bet.
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The Chicago Cubs were the preseason favorite to repeat as World Series champions. But they have fallen out of favor in Las Vegas much the same way as Kyle Schwarber has with the Cubs. One of the heroes of last year’s postseason struggled in the leadoff spot. After failing to get his batting average over .200 since April, Schwarber has been demoted to the minors.
In the meantime, the two favorites everywhere to make the World Series are the Houston Astros in the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National. The Astros have had no challenge in the AL West. The only question seems to be whether they can keep their starting pitchers healthy the rest of the way.
The Dodgers on the other hand are involved in a fierce fight in the NL West. The surprising Colorado Rockies and the equally surprising Arizona Diamondbacks are indicating that they are here to say. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, one of the best baseball journalists in the country, told me on VSiN that all three teams will make the playoffs, and that it won’t even be close.
In terms of betting on both the Dodgers and Astros, beware of the inflated lines, especially on the Dodgers. Even the Astros will slip through as an unexpected underdog, just as they did Thursday. That is when they played Oakland, and the A’s were actually bet down to a minus-106 favorite only to lose to Houston 12-9.
There is plenty of baseball left to be played this summer, and maybe the warmer temperatures will get the Cubs to put their pieces back together. But if they don’t, is it too soon to ask around here in Vegas for the Cubs’ win total for 2018?