The Las Vegas Raiders have rebuilt their defense into one that they hope is the answer to their Hail Marys. And though getting to the playoffs this year may not require divine interceptions, the Raiders kneel before a schedule that features more than a single holy grail towards redemption.
Maybe in Vegas sinning is the key to winning.
We are only one month away from the Raiders hosting the New Orleans Saints in their debut of Allegiant Stadium on Monday Night Football. Barring an injury like the one he suffered a year ago, the Saints will feature Drew Brees at quarterback and yet somehow this is not one of the Raiders’ five games this season presumed to be against a former MVP.
And though the AFC West could feature the NFL’s best quarterback, surprisingly Las Vegas finds itself in a division this year in which Patrick Mahomes’ four starts against is tied with Tyrod Taylor for the most career games against the Raiders. Philip Rivers and his 28 career games against Oakland went to
Sindianapolis the Colts but guess what?
They still face him anyway.
If these next 16 games feature the quarterback as expected today — highly improbable — then the Raiders will only be playing one contest all season long against a quarterback who has a losing record against the franchise: Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield is 0-1.
Added up, the Raiders face four former MVPs (Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton), two probable Hall of Famers who didn’t win MVP (Drew Brees, Philip Rivers), and then a slate of mostly young, untested quarterbacks once they get past Teddy Bridgewater in Week 1.
If you assumed a starter for every team and every game and totaled their win-loss record against the Oakland franchise, the Raiders will be facing quarterbacks who they are a combined 18-52 against. It may be that Las Vegas simply needs to thrive against the young guns (Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Drew Lock, Mayfield) to survive through into January, but a true test of their mettle would come against the quarterbacks who they aren’t often expected to beat.
There has never been a more opportune time to be reborn.
AFC West (6 games)
Patrick Mahomes, Patrick Mahomes, 4-0
Tyrod Taylor, Tyrod Taylor, 1-1
Drew Lock, Drew Lock, 1-0
Vegas plays the Chiefs in Weeks 6 and 11, the Chargers in Weeks 9 and 15, and the Broncos in Weeks 10 and 17. So five of their divisional games happen in the second half of the season, which for me makes it even less likely that they’ll be facing off against Tyrod Taylor when it happens.
In his most recent start against the Raiders in 2017 while with the Bills, Taylor completed 20-of-27 attempts and ran for a touchdown in a 34-14 win. My gut feeling is that Justin Herbert, the sixth overall pick this year, will be starting by at least that Week 15 contest.
In Lock’s final start of his rookie campaign last year, he was okay but not spectacular and he was unable to close the game for Denver, giving Oakland a chance to win the game if they had converted a two point conversion.
Attempts to contend with Mahomes have been painful for the Raiders thus far: two four touchdown/no interception games for him in the last two years and four wins without a loss. To beat the Chiefs at home on Sunday Night Football in Week 11 would say a lot.
NFC South (4 games)
Tom Brady, 4-1
Drew Brees, 8-3
Matt Ryan, 3-0
Teddy Bridgewater, 1-0
Surprisingly, Tom Brady has only faced the Raiders five times in his career — the fewest of any team in the AFC. Redemption against Brady has been 20 years in the making, will it take a move to Tampa Bay to finally get it? This is also a Sunday Night home game.
Jon Gruden has more memories of Drew Brees from when he was coaching in Tampa than anything recent and six of the eight wins Brees has against the Raiders came when he was a member of the Chargers. Since signing with the Saints, Brees is 2-1 against Oakland, but his most recent game was a 35-34 loss in 2016 n which he had 423 yards and four touchdowns.
Brees is 24-2 in his career when he has at least four touchdowns and no interceptions — that one career loss being against the Raiders and a 48-46 loss to the 49ers last season when he had five touchdowns and no picks.
In Matt Ryan’s most recent start against Oakland, the Raiders tied the game 21-21 on a throw from Derek Carr to Michael Crabtree early in the fourth quarter. But Ryan — unbeknownst to anyone on his way to an MVP — quickly gave Atlanta the lead back and they won 35-28.
Bridgewater faced the Raiders while he was with the Vikings in 2015, winning 30-14 when he had a pretty typical 140 passing yards.
AFC East (4 games)
Cam Newton, 1-1
Josh Allen, n/a
Sam Darnold, 1-0
Ryan Fitzpatrick, 3-1
I’m actually not picking Cam Newton to be the majority starter for the Patriots this season, but it could definitely happen and it seems like this is what most people believe so I’ll go with it. In either case, Jarrett Stidham doesn’t have any starts against anyone and Brian Hoyer, for what it’s worth, is 1-0 in his career as a starter against the Raiders: a 23-13 win while he was with the Browns in 2014.
Similarly, I don’t know if we can expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to be the starter for Miami all the way in Week 16. If they’re not competitive for the playoffs, is it safe to assume that Tua is going to be starting? And what if Tua is hurt or they deem him not ready? Then we could be seeing Josh Rosen, who played the Raiders during his rookie season with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, losing 23-21 as he completed only nine passes with two interceptions. (But also throwing three touchdowns.)
Sam Darnold enjoyed his most lopsided victory to date as the Jets beat the Raiders 34-3 last season. His 127.8 passer rating was a season-high. Not hard to find redemption there, even with the Jets. And finally, they’ve not yet faced Josh Allen.
And (2 games)
Philip Rivers, 18-10
Baker Mayfield, 0-1
With Baker Mayfield on the schedule in Week 8, that means that Las Vegas will be facing every first round quarterback in the 2018 draft (Mayfield, Darnold, Allen, Rosen (to some degree maybe)) with the exception of Lamar Jackson. Perhaps they’re saving that one for the playoffs. Mayfield’s first career start was a 45-42 loss to the Raiders in Week 4 of the 2018 season. That would be redemption on his part that Vegas has no interest in being a part of.
Finally, there’s the quarterback on this list who they’ve seen the most times.
I can’t articulate the Raiders’ history against Philip Rivers as well as most of you probably could but there’s not a complete shortage of good days in that tome. Though the Chargers won all four contests against Oakland from 2017-2018, Rivers didn’t win any games against the Raiders in 2015, 2016 or 2019. Now he’s on the Colts, a team that lost to the Raiders last season 31-24 in large thanks to a pick-six by Erik Harris against former starter Jacoby Brissett. At least with Rivers, we know that they’ve replaced Brissett with a quarterback who has proven just as capable of throwing touchdowns to Erik Harris.
Just sin, baby.