While nothing has happened in the three months since the NFL schedule was released, so much about the 2020 season has already changed.
The Las Vegas Raiders — along with every other NFL team — will be heading into the season cold. The offseason workout program was conducted virtually and it was shortened, the rookies are just now meeting their new coaches, there won’t be any preseason games and teams won’t start practicing in pads until mid-August, when training camp usually winds down.
The 2020 NFL season is going to be the most unique in the modern era. Who knows what to expect?
That’s why I found a piece by CBS Sports to be fascinating. The article chose a turning point game for every NFL team. The pick for the Raiders was Week 2 at home against New Orleans in the first game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Here is part of the reasoning:
If the Raiders can knock off the Saints, it would prove they’re capable of beating good teams, and just as importantly, it would give them a win during their first-ever game played in Las Vegas. On the other hand, if the Raiders lose to the Saints, they might not win again until November, and that’s because after New Orleans, the Raiders will play New England, Buffalo, Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
I find that assessment to be a bit dramatic. Also, because of all the change and uncertainty involving this season, I don’t think you can point to any one game as vital.
For the Raiders, the key, in my opinion, is the first four games as a whole. They need to get out of the first quarter of the season with, at least, a 2-2 record. The Raiders open at Carolina, and then play at New England and at home against Buffalo after hosting the Saints.
Every NFL team is going to be adjusting on the fly. For example, the Panthers (Teddy Bridgewater) and Patriots (Cam Newton) are starting new quarterbacks. Therefore, the first part of the season could be rough for those offenses.
The Raiders have to take advantage of any teams stumbling out of the starting block. Every team will get better as the season goes on, so the teams that best navigate the early part of the season are going to be in better shape down the stretch.
It is also important to note that the Raiders schedule eases down the stretch. So, it will be even more important for Las Vegas to win some games early that perhaps they wouldn’t be expected to be under normal circumstances.