With only sixteen games on the NFL’s regular season schedule, each contest holds significant weight. That being said, some are still more important than others.
Here are the five games that will have the biggest impact on the Oakland Raiders’ 2017 season:
1) September 10, 2017 - Raiders @ Titans
The Raiders and the Titans are led by dynamic young quarterbacks and have both received significant hype this offseason as strong contenders in the AFC. It won’t take long to figure out which team was more worthy of the praise as they meet in the season opener.
Both teams will be eager to start the season strong, but it will be especially important for Oakland, who face the fourth toughest strength of schedule in 2017, per CBS.
Marshawn Lynch will be thrown right back into the fire, facing last years second-ranked rush defense on the road in ‘Smashville.’ On the other side of the ball, the Raiders’ 23rd-ranked rush defense from a year ago will face the Titans’ ground game that ranked third in the league in 2016.
Perhaps most importantly, the health of Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota—who both suffered broken legs last season—will be evident in this contest.
2) October 1, 2017 - Raiders @ Broncos
The Raiders proved that they could beat the Broncos last season. Now they need to prove they can do it in Denver.
The last game of the 2016 regular season was a mess for the Carr-less Raiders as they sputtered on offense, losing 24-6. Not having their young pivot was a factor, but it’s a new year and the Broncos remain one of the strongest opponents on the Raiders’ schedule. Beating them in their own barn early in the season would do wonders for the Silver and Black’s psyche.
Facing the Broncos’ elite defense will be a great test for Carr and the rest of the offensive unit. The ‘No Fly Zone’ ranked number one against the pass in 2016 and—despite ranking 28th against the run—Denver’s defense allowed the fourth fewest yards in the NFL.
3) November 19, 2017 - Raiders vs. Patriots
This is the game Raiders’ coaches, players and fans will have circled on their calendars in bright red ink. This is—unequivocally—the biggest test of the year for a Raiders squad hoping to emerge as worthy contenders in the AFC.
The game will take place in Mexico City, the second straight season where such a contest will qualify as a home game for the Raiders. This one will be crucial in that the Raiders’ young squad will need to prove to themselves they can stand toe-to-toe with the White Walkers of the AFC.
Since Bill Belichick was named coach in 2000, the Pats have made 11 AFC championships, winning seven. As football fans are well aware, they’ve converted those Super Bowl births into five shiny Lombardi Trophies for the Foxborough trophy case.
The success the legendary franchise has had in the Belichick-era is exactly what the Raiders are trying to emulate. They haven’t beat the Pats since 2002, losing the past four contests between the teams.
4) December 10, 2017 - Raiders @ Chiefs
The Chiefs are the thorn in the Raiders’ side that just won’t go away. Last season they lost both contests to Kansas City, which resulted in a second-place finish in the AFC West despite holding the same record as Andy Reid’s squad. If the Raiders want to claim their first division title since 2002, they will almost certainly need to beat the Chiefs at least once in 2017.
The trash-talk between the two squads has been well-documented this summer on S&B Pride, with Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters warning Lynch that he would have the “dog shit beat out of him.” Peters words likely did little to intimidate the stocky running back, but they helped set the stage for an epic rivalry between the two squads in 2017.
The Chiefs’ roster is rock solid. The defense allowed the seventh-fewest points in the NFL last season and Andy Reid’s west coast offense is always productive. Even without all the extra-curricular talk this game is must-win for the Raiders.
5) December 17, 2017 - Raiders vs. Cowboys
Sunday Night Football? Check. Late-season intensity? Check. Two of the NFL’s most explosive young offenses? Check. This game has all the makings of one of the seasons most exciting games.
The Cowboys and rookie phenom Ezekiel Elliott boasted the leagues second-ranked rushing attack last season while their defense allowed the fewest rush yards per game in the entire league.
On defense they added pass-rusher Taco Charlton out of Michigan in the first round and all indications point to highly-touted linebacker Jaylon Smith finally being healthy and ready to play a role in Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 defense.
Chances are good that this game will hold significant weight in Dallas and Oakland’s attempts to land some form of home-field advantage in the playoffs. At the very least, this game should affect the teams attempts to win their respective divisions.
Which game is the most important for the Raiders in 2017?
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