It is almost impossible to grade the degree of difficulty of the 2011 NFL schedules. In this disjointed offseason we know opponents and times and locations before we even know what players will be on what teams since teams haven't even been able to sign free agents yet. And you have to combine that with the fact that in this crazy league of parity the records of teams fluctuate like that it is the point of the game.
But should we let these silly variables stop us from comparing the difficulty of the Raiders schedule to the rest of the AFC West? I think not. Besides we already know the Raiders are going to win the division. We might as well take a look at why this will happen.
First of all lets hope that the teams on the schedule of the AFC West do not stray to far from their 2010 records. The opponents combined record for each of the Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs is 133-123. That is tied for the third highest opponent winning percentage in the NFL. The Raiders opponents record is 126-130, and that is tied for 19th hardest.
And that is a rock solid start. Jump over for a quick rundown of how the schedules of the rest of the teams of the AFC West compared to the Raiders.
Denver Broncos: 2010 Record vs. Raiders, 0-2
Analysis: The real advantage the Raiders have over the Broncos in strength of schedule is the Raiders get to play the Broncos twice and the Broncos have to play the Raiders twice. Suck on that Elway!
Beyond that the Broncos have an odd schedule. Their first two games are at home as well as three of their last four. That means they are going to spend the majority of the mid part of their season on the road. In an odd bit of scheduling they play all of three of their AFC West road games between weeks nine and 12. Have fun with that Denver.
San Diego Chargers: 2010 Record vs. Raiders, 0-2
Analysis: Leading up to the first Raider-Charger game the Chargers will travel to take on the Jets, travel to take on the Chiefs and then host the Packers. The Raiders on the other hand will have the bye week, run all over the Broncos and then roll into San Diego.
The Raiders-Chargers game is on a Thursday, and while the Chargers will be at home they will be entering that game on a short week after a grueling stretch of their schedule. The Raiders will enter it after after two straight bye weeks. Then after the Chargers get demoralized by the Raiders they will have to travel to take on the Bears. And have fun with that Chargers.
Kansas City Chiefs: 2010 Record vs. Raiders, 0-2
Analysis: Remember last year as the Raiders tried to catch the Chiefs in the second half of the season? We all looked ahead at the schedule and it was hard to find a team that was going to beat the Chiefs. Well, next season it is likely to be a different story.
They do get an apparently soft start to their season as three of their first four games are against the Bills, Lions and Vikings with the Bills and Vikings at home. They better win all three of those, because it is all up hill from there. The last seven games the Chiefs play are @Patriots, Steelers, @Bears, @Jets, Packers, Raiders and Broncos. ...And have fun with that Kansas City.