The Oakland Raiders once again have inherited one of the hardest schedules in the NFL. Every team plays 6 games from their own division, 4 games against another division, 4 games against another different division, and 2 random games from any of the other 5 divisions. The Raiders have on schedule the AFC North (World Champion Steelers, Ravens, Cincy, Cleveland), the NFC East (NFC Championship participant Eagles, 2007-2008 World Champion Giants, Cowboys, Redskins) and the Texans and Jets, along with their divisional games. On paper, in the most professional way I can describe it, the Raiders are screwed. However, when looking at the schedule deeper, the Raiders are set for an improvement on their 5 and 11 season from the year before. Lets break it down...
Week 1 - San Diego at Home(Monday Night-10:15 Eastern) - The Chargers have been the Raiders Kryptonite as of late. Strong run offense and run defense=Defending what we do well and attacking what we don't defend well. Realistically the Raiders had the Chargers right where they wanted them last time these two teams played in Oakland, leading 15 to 3 entering the 4th quarter only to tire out on defense and give up 25 4th quarter points and 80 rushing yards in a single quarter. Looking at this game this season, I see LT slowing down more than usual as he gets closer to that 30 year old mark. Still, the offensive line is strong and Darren Sproles may break down as the season goes on, but not likely in Week 1. If the Raiders can pull this one out, I see nothing holding them from the division crown. However, my prediction as of Mid June is the Chargers to win.
Week 2 - Kansas City at Kansas City - 2nd week of the season I still see rust on this offense for KC. They do have Dwayne Bowe, however the Raiders have ND. With Tony G gone, the rest of the match ups are in no favor to the Raiders or Cheifs. Larry Johnson is still and enigma, either rushing for 22 or 92 yards in the Raider contests. At home with a fresh Raider defense, I see him rushing for limited yards and with no true nose guard for KC I see our RB's going wild.
Week 3 - Denver at Home - No Jay Cutler=No way this team can score 41 at home like last year. Brandon Marshall wants out, they have no true No. 1 RB, and no true nose guard for that defense. Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil can bring it off the edge, but with no one up front to stop the Raider running attack and seemingly no one who can match up with Zach Miller on play action passes, the Raiders should pull this one out.
Week 4 - Houston at Houston - Sorry Raider fans but I don't see a repeat of last seasons game where the Raiders beat this playoff potential team. At Houston with Mario Williams fresh and Steve Slaton as well, this will be a tough situation for the Raiders to win. ND matches up with Andre Johnson well, but Owen Daniels will be a tough match up for any safety, including rookie Mike Mitchell and Hiram Eugene. Mike Huff could be the guy to match up against him, but then Houston will just run the ball right at Huff and he will get plowed. Raiders cannot pull the road win off.
Week 5 - New York Giants at New York - Watch out Giants, because this one could be a mouse trap game. The Raiders played the Bills tough on the road last year at a 1 o clock kick off just like this one. The Giants appear strong because of the reputation they have built up, but no Derrick Ward or Plaxico Burress and this offense has gotten much weaker. The defense is still strong as ever, but no Steve Spagnuolo and the defense will not have the same crazy looks as before. I also see Eli throwing some picks because no one on the outside has an advantage over the Raider cover guys. But still, the Raiders lose a closer game than the experts think.
Week 6 - Eagles at Home - This could get ugly. Even if the Raiders are at home, this is the most loaded team with young talent in the league. The defense is still fast as hell, and Donovan has plenty of weapons to throw to. Maybe if the Raiders can establish a running game, they might only lose by 17. Lol.
Week 7 - New York Jets at Home - No Brett Favre. No Lavernius Coles. The offense should not be the problem for the Raiders. The defense should be ferocious with Bart Scott and Lito Sheppherd and Rex Ryan. Expect of close game just like last year, with the Raiders winning this one as well.
Week 8 - San Diego at San Diego - Same team, same story. The Raiders have a difficult game on the road against a bad match up for them. The running game for the Chargers should be weaker because of LT slowing down and Darren Sproles experiencing a full work load. Still the Raiders lose.
Week 10 - Kansas City at Home - The Raiders should avoid a late game trick play field goal and use the same game plan to beat these guys again. With our RB depth, we should avoid losing a step in the running game due to injury. Raiders win.
Week 11 - Cincy at Home - This team is a sleeper team. I see the Bengals going anywhere from 6 and 10 to 10 and 6. However, the Raiders match up well with OchoCinco meeting ND and the young Cincy O line meeting the Raider pass rush. The Cincy D is much stronger than given credit for, but the Raiders should take advantage of turnovers and pull a W.
Week 12 - Dallas at Dallas - Toss up for me. I know the media has tabbed this team as "The Most Talented Team in the NFL", but they are not. They aren't even the most talented team in their division, or even their own state. Tony Romo is shaky and unclutch. Roy Williams should be matched up with ND. However if the Cowboys use their big O line as they should be used, this team could beat us. Ill give it to the Cowboys for now.
Week 13 - Pittsburg at Pittsburg - I know they just won the Super Bowl, but this is a new year. I did not see the Steelers as the best team last season, instead they just won all the games they had to win to be the champs. The Raiders won the last time these 2 teams played, when Pittsburg was coming off a championship. Ben will force some throws, and our run defense will be better than last year. On offense the Raiders will have a tough time moving the ball. Raiders lose.
Week 14 - Washington at Home - Big Albert Haynesworth comes to town with all that dough, and he poses some huge problems for us up the middle, but off the edge this team has no one that intimidates our tackles. We should be able to run the ball with some success. On defense, Chris Cooley and Clinton Portis are going to give us some fits, but with Jason Campbells wind up delivery, we should have some passes to be in play for our DB's. Still, the Raiders lose. Lol.
Week 15 - Denver at Denver - The cold of Denver actually plays to the advantage of the Raiders with their running game. The Broncos could be anywhere from 5 and 9 to 7 and 7 at this point in the season, so this game is a toss up. But since I have given the majority of the toss ups to the other teams, I see this being the first season sweep of the Broncos for the Raiders in a long time.
Week 16 - Cleveland at Cleveland - With Denver being cold in December, expect Cleveland to be worse. However no K2 and the QB situation being less prolific than ours was last season I see the Raiders beating another Eric Mangini team.
Week 17 - Ravens at Home - The defense is much weaker this year with Rex Ryan being gone, and Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard are too. Still the running game is excellent and Ray lewis still breathes, so the Raiders should have a tough time moving the ball. However I do see Joe Flacco as having a sophomore slump and I do also see him being not nearly as good as his other 2008 Draft class QB Matt Ryan.
And there you are. Probably another Top 15 pick ahead for us, but showing that we are on the cusp of winning our division.