Now the excessively long, drawn-out, money-grabbing event that was the 2022 NFL Schedule release is finally over, we can dive into the Las Vegas Raiders' schedule and get excited about some games.
The Raiders are +600 to win the AFC West, which are the longest odds in the division, and aren’t expected to return to the playoffs per DraftKings Sportsbook, as the odds for them not making it are -200 and +160 for them to go to the dance. That’s likely because Las Vegas has a tough schedule where they play five playoff teams to close out the year, including the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams on the road.
Sure, there will be plenty of intriguing storylines throughout the year, especially with the Raiders playing in what expects to be the most competitive division in the league. But the gauntlet mentioned above includes three out of our five most interesting matchups of the season.
Week 1 at Los Angeles Chargers
With all of that talk about the end of the season stretch, why not talk about Week 1 right off the back?
The Raiders and Chargers rivalry picked up steam last year when the teams not only split their matchups but also competed in a win-or-go-home game during the final week of the season. Los Angeles will certainly be looking for revenge and they’ve spent all offseason revamping their roster by adding several key free agents, including former Raider Khalil Mack which only adds more fuel to the fire.
Las Vegas has been busy this offseason too, though, and that has sparked debates about which squad has improved the most. Well, now we won’t have to wait too long to find our answer.
Week 5 at Kansas City Chiefs (MNF)
Truth be told, you could probably swap this game out with the regular-season finale in Vegas and I wouldn’t fight you too much on that. There’s a good chance the AFC West will be on the line and even if the two teams aren’t competing with each other for the crown, there’s enough hatred on either side for the game to still have plenty of intrigue.
However, I opted for the first matchup for a couple of reasons. It’s Monday Night Football and on the road. Arrowhead is always a tough place to play and it will be rockin’ for this rivalry game. Plus, the Raiders will have a chance to send a statement to the Chiefs and the rest of the division early on in the season.
Week 15 vs New England Patriots (SNF)
For better or worse, the Raiders and Patriots have been connected for about 20 years now. You can’t talk about the Pats’ dynasty without mentioning the Tuck Fumble, as that seemingly catapulted their dominance, and the linkage between the two clubs only grew stronger this offseason.
Josh McDaniels will go head-to-head with his mentor Bill Belichick for the first time since 2009, and there are plenty of other executives — Dave Ziegler most notably — coaches and players who have made the trek out west over the past few months. Not to mention that both teams were AFC Wild Cards a year ago, so there are plenty of reasons why NBC picked this matchup for a primetime spot.
Week 16 at Pittsburgh Steelers (NFLN)
Speaking of traumatic plays in the Raiders’ history, it’s the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception which happened on December 23, 1972, in case you forgot...
The half-a-century rematch won’t be on quite the same date as a Saturday was the best the NFL could do, so it will be played on Christmas Eve instead and in a primetime slot — 5:30 pm PST — which makes the game even more intriguing. While the contest also won’t be held in Three Rivers Stadium like last time, Pittsburgh will be the host again, meaning we could be in for an interesting weather situation too.
The Steelers’ roster does have a handful of question marks, including at quarterback, so who knows how many playoff implications will be on the line, but this is a classic “throw the records out” type of matchup when these two teams square off.
Week 17 vs San Francisco 49ers
Has this rivalry lost some of its luster now that both teams don’t share a bridge? Maybe, but we’ll find out this season and I don’t think the hate will just go away between these two fanbases.
Even when the Raiders and 49ers were both terrible, these matchups that only happen once every four years were considered must-wins. In a way, winning served as reassurance that your team wasn’t the worst in the area and there were at least some local people you could talk smack to.
This season though, San Francisco and Las Vegas are coming off playoff runs where they were eliminated by the champion and runner-up, and the two teams are expected to be in the postseason picture again this year. It should be a pretty pivotal contest seeing as the NFC West might be the second-most competitive division in the NFL.
Plus, the game will be on New Year’s Day to add to the significance.
Week 11 at Denver Broncos
Week 14 at Los Angeles Rams (TNF)
Week 18 vs Kansas City Chiefs