With so much to anticipate in this 2018 season, the consensus in Raider Nation is that NFL schedule makers created an easier slate for Gruden to navigate than in years past. That being said every week in the NFL will be a war of attrition. Recently Tyler Green suggested the Battle of the Bay in San Francisco was Raiders best game. But I’m here to argue no game will be bigger than Week 2 vs Denver. Here are a few reasons why.
Vendettas vs discipline
We all remember too well Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib’s antics in past meetings. When these two scuffled over jewelry it was apparent to many that Jack Del Rio had lost command of his team. Now there’s another nemesis in Denver; ex-Raiders punter Marquette King.
As if anyone needed to add more fuel to the fire of this historic NFL rivalry, Marquette King posing with Talib during the 2016 Pro-Bowl, seemingly making fun of his own teammate and re-enacting the chain pull, King began to rub this fan base and apparently his teammates the wrong way.
Cordarelle Patterson confirmed this in an interview with Good Morning Football on NFL Network saying that “people didn’t like [King].” Bruce Irvin even requested a place on special teams when these two units clash.
Gruden will have his hands full reining in those who wish to do King harm in the best interest of safety and just overall good sportsmanship. Fans will see how tightly Gruden will have this team under control by the way they respond to the hype that will lead up to the game (most likely fueled by King’s social media antics) and the emotions that come with playing against a long time Rival in the hated Denver Broncos.
Short week and altitude
The Raiders’ test won’t end with discipline. After hosting the Rams on Monday night, the team will turn right around and have one less day to prepare for their opponent than the Broncos will.
Everyone assumes Gruden has accrued plenty of tricks up his sleeve during his 10 years off. More telling perhaps than offensive scheme and play-calling will be how he gets his team prepared. The time he’s spent visiting all 32 teams and their coaching staffs while working at ESPN should have yielded new approaches to dealing with the challenge of a short week.
The Raiders will have to prepare their lungs and bodies for the altitude at Mile High. This unit did not play well in high altitude games last season and that’s a direct result of conditioning. The Raiders will be able to set the course of the season with a spirited effort in this game.
AFC West rival
Not many tag lines resounded more clearly than “Winning the Division” during Jack Del Rio’s tenure in Silver & Black. Unfortunately the Raiders were never able to deliver on this goal. The 2018 Raiders will have their hands full with all the AFC West opponents. If this is a close game, expect each and every division match-up to be a nail biter.
But if Gruden and company can pull off a convincing win, their chances of winning the division go way up. Gruden’s record against the Broncos as Raiders head coach is 1-7 (yikes). No one feels the pressure to produce results vs Broncos more than Gruden and he’ll want to get the monkey off his back in his first road game and first against a division opponent since returning as Raiders head coach.
This road match-up will show the world where this Raider team belongs in the hierarchy of not only the AFC West but the entire NFL. Competing on the road against tough opponents is the recipe for success and securing a playoff berth in the NFL. Raiders fans should have a great idea about the state of the team and we’ll only have to wait until week 2 to find out.
What is the best/biggest road game on the Raiders 2018 schedule?
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Week 2 at Broncos
Week 9 at 49ers
Week 17 at Chiefs
Other (specify in comments)