Now that the 2023 schedule is set in place for the Las Vegas Raiders and the rest of the NFL, we can start to get an idea of how the campaign will play out for the Silver and Black.
While who they play is important, when and in what order is a big factor that will determine the team’s final record as well. The Raiders will have their fair share of tough stretches as they have about three clusters of games that should be challenging and only two stretches where they’ll have an opportunity to coast a bit, as highlighted below.
Tough stretch #1: Weeks 1-4
The NFL’s schedule makers didn’t do the Raiders any favors to start the year, that’s for sure. Three of their first four games are on the road and two of those three outings will be against 2022 playoff teams in Bills and Chargers. Both the Bills and Chargers are expected to be contenders for the AFC Championship this year as well.
Even the two squads who didn’t make the postseason a year ago aren’t exactly easy draws. The Broncos should be much better with new head coach Sean Payton calling the shots, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are an ascending team with a young quarterback in Kenny Pickett who will be looking to take the next step in his second season.
We’ll find out pretty quickly what the 2023 Raiders are made of with this gauntlet to begin the year.
Easy stretch #1: Weeks 5-7
The good news for Las Vegas is their schedule eases up after the first month. The next stretch opens up with a home game against the Packers who will still be breaking in quarterback Jordan Love. While Love could develop later in the season, getting to play him early benefits the Raiders as he’ll still be getting his feet wet as a starter, and it helps that the lights will be a little brighter as this is a Monday Night Football matchup.
The Patriots will never be an “easy” game as long as Bill Belichick is around, but there’s no denying that they and quarterback Mac Jones regressed last season. The return of offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien should help turn things around, but similar to the situation with Love, playing Jones and the Pats early in the season benefits the Raiders. Plus, back-to-back home games should revitalize the team after a long road trip to start the year.
Then there are the Bears, who project to be better than last season but are still a young team who will be figuring things out. While finding a way to stop quarterback Justin Fields will be one of the team’s biggest keys, Chicago’s offensive line should struggle against Las Vegas’ pass rush which should help keep the young QB in check.
Tough Stretch #2: Weeks 8-12
After getting a break from playing playoff teams from the year before, it’ll be back to the gauntlet for the Silver and Black over the following month. They’ll play two teams who made the postseason the year before and two more who were in the hunt until the very end and are young up-and-coming teams.
The Lions matchup on Monday Night Football will be the second game of a Midwest road trip which brings its own challenges. On top of it, Detroit has an explosive offense and finished 2022 winning eight of their last 10 games. In a way, they’re similar to the 2016 Raiders team that ended a long playoff drought.
Then there are the New York teams as the Giants are coming off their best season in several years and have the reigning NFL Coach of the Year in Brian Daboll, who will have one more day than Josh McDaniels will have to prepare for the contest. To follow that game up, Aaron Rodgers and the ascending Jets come into town who many expect to be in the postseason mix after quarterback play is what held them back last season.
Caping this stretch off with a road trip to Miami and the Raiders' first matchup with the Chiefs makes it even more brutal. The Dolphins are another playoff team from a year ago and have a stable of receivers who can fly and will test the Raiders’ young defensive backs in Tyreek Hill and Jalen Waddle. Then the defending Super Bowl Champions await, so Las Vegas will certainly earn their bye week (Week 13) heading into December.
Easy Stretch #2: Week 17-18
Games: at Indianapolis Colts, vs. Denver Broncos
We’re joining to jump around the schedule here for a bit as the Raiders don’t really have another “easy” stretch until the end of the year, but they will have a chance to end on a high note.
Who knows what the Colts will be doing at quarterback by the time December rolls around? Rookie Anthony Richardson could be getting reps to get prepared for the future, which bodes well for Las Vegas in that lone contest. While the Broncos are part of the Silver and Black’s tough stretch to begin the year, getting to play them at home instead of in Denver late in the season certainly has its advantages.
Tough Stretch #3: Weeks 14-16
Games: vs. Minnesota Vikings, vs. Los Angeles Chargers, at Kansas City Chiefs
After a bye in Week 13, the Raiders will have to hit the ground running with the Vikings coming into town the following Sunday. Minnesota is another 2022 playoff team who expects to be in the mix for the NFC North crown again this year. To make matters worse, Las Vegas will have to turn around and host another reigning postseason squad in the Chargers for a Thursday Night Football bout.
That will at least give the Raiders 11 days to prepare for their second matchup with the Chiefs, but heading to Arrowhead on Christmas Day feels like a recipe for disaster, especially since that game will have a 10 a.m. PST kickoff.
One thing that is clear about the 2023 campaign, and arguably has been true for a while, is the NFL’s schedule makers certainly didn’t do the Silver and Black any favors!