As the bold football predictions swirled near the end of ESPN’s “Get Up” morning show on Thursday, NFL reporter and talking head Dianna Russini really went out on a limb with her AFC Super Bowl pick.
“I have the Vegas Raiders going to the Super Bowl this year,” Russini said. “I think Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Darren Waller. I think they’re going to be able to come up with something real good with Josh McDaniels. Look, the last time the Raiders were able to go far, they had a top defense. They’re defense needs to be a top-five defense in order to go all the way, but I think this could happen. I think they have a good chance.”
Despite being in the playoffs last year, most analysts are ranking the Raiders at or near the bottom of that stacked AFC West.
Last year the Raiders defied odds and made the playoffs, kicking out the NFL’s darling Chargers along the way.
This year the Raiders get ranked “the most improved team” and yet, pundits still say they’ll be last in the AFC West. pic.twitter.com/PBk5NEUJnz
— L.J. Christensen (@LJChristensen2) March 25, 2022
Former GM Mike Tannenbaum was asked if he thought Russini was onto something, and he said “no” flat-out, despite the fact that they are considered one of the most improved NFL teams and are moving up in the power rankings.
“I understand the thought and the logic Diana,” Mr.T quipped. “However, because it’s the AFC West with Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes, (Russell Wilson) I think both things can be true. I think they can be better and not make the playoffs.”
Dan Graziano was left speechless by Russini’s prediction and said, “Dianna. I don’t know. It’s not bad. It’s actually a little bolder maybe than the Jaguars making the playoffs.”
While it’s a bold claim by Russini, here’s some other reasons why her prediction is a bit farfetched.
The Raiders play in the toughest division in the NFL (AFC West). A division which saw every team add key difference-makers this offseason.
The Chiefs may have traded Tyreek Hill, but the additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdez Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore actually make the passing game more diverse. Plus they improved the defense.
The rising San Diego Chargers added cornerback JC Jackson and prolific edge rusher Khalil Mack to a team with future Hall of Famer Joey Bosa. Herbert is one of the elite young passers in the sport.
The newly sold Denver Broncos traded for Russell Wilson and signed edge rusher Randy Gregory. And that’s just in the Raiders’ division.
Around the AFC as a whole, trendy Super Bowl pick Buffalo added edge rusher Von Miller, Cleveland added Deshaun Watson (although his playing status is murky at best).
The defending AFC champion Bengals fixed their Achilles’ heel, which was protecting franchise QB Joe Burrow, and the Ravens are once again healthy. As soon as Lamar Jackson signs that deal they are in business.
Nothing about the AFC says the Raiders are Super Bowl-bound.
It was clear that Russini needed to make a big bang as “Get Up” ended on Thursday morning and why not throw out a team that probably won’t even contend for its division as potential Super Bowl participant.
It’s the long shot of long shots, and Russini has been in this game long enough to know that what she says one week before preseason will be forgotten by Week 1 and she will get to make new bold predictions each day.
Let’s see how Russini feels after she’s had her proper cup of Joe in the morning.