The Oakland Raiders are a team in transition, not by choice, but by necessity. The regime in charge had to spend the entirety of the offseason cutting expensive contracts from decent but overpaid talent, and the on-the-field product is a huge question mark as a result. Most will tell you that the Raiders have no chance this season, but what's overlooked is that the team had a great offseason for what it is it needed to do.
Trying to predict where the Raiders will end up at the end of this season is not realistic. They were so-so last year and they can either win a couple more games or lose a lot more games this year. That's how things go when Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn are battling it out to be your quarterback, and the best defensive players have left the team for various reasons.
Fortunately, the Raiders do have the fourth-least difficult schedule in the league this season, behind only the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos. Unfortunately, two of those teams are in their division, and looking like they're much better equipped to succeed this season.
Let's take a look at their schedule below:
|1||Sept. 8||@ Indianapolis||1 p.m.||CBS|
|2||Sept. 15||vs. Jacksonville||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|3||Sept. 23||@ Denver||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4||Sept. 29||vs. Washington||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|5||Oct. 6||vs. San Diego||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|6||Oct. 13||@ Kansas City||1 p.m.||CBS|
|8||Oct. 27||vs. Pittsburgh||4:05 p.m.||CBS|
|9||Nov. 3||vs. Philadelphia||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|10||Nov. 10||@ New York Giants||1 p.m.||CBS|
|11||Nov. 17||@ Houston||1 p.m.||CBS|
|12||Nov. 24||vs. Tennessee||4:05 p.m.||CBS|
|13||Nov. 28||@ Dallas||4:30 p.m.||CBS|
|14||Dec. 8||@ New York Jets||1 p.m.||CBS|
|15||Dec. 15||vs. Kansas City||4:05 p.m.||CBS|
|16||Dec. 22||@ San Diego||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|17||Dec. 29||vs. Denver||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
Toughest out: Denver Broncos (away)
The Raiders do have one of the easier schedules in the league, but they have to go up against the Broncos twice. That's big, as Peyton Manning has turned that team into one of the NFL's best. The Denver offense is just too much for Oakland's defense on paper.
Sure, the Broncos at home are tough, and the game against the Washington Redskins at home will be hard as well, but beating the Broncos on the road is going to be the toughest outing for the Raiders this season.
Must win: Kansas City Chiefs (away)
It's hard to imagine the Raiders in a must-win scenario this season. The implication of having a "must-win" game means that there's a chance to make it to the playoffs; otherwise, what does it matter? That said, if we're going to look at the structure of the schedule, beating the rival Chiefs, who had a worse record last year, at Arrowhead heading into a bye week would be huge.
The teams right after that bye week -- the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles -- are both good, but beatable teams. If the Raiders can go in rested and with some confidence, they might be able to get a few wins in a row and build up some momentum.
Don't overlook: New York Jets
The Jets are a mess right now, about as much as the Raiders happen to be. But if the Raiders actually put something together and get some wins going, the end of the season will be important. They have the Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys, Jets and then the Chiefs and San Diego Chargers. These are all winnable games, with the Jets and Chiefs seemingly being the weakest.
But the Jets still have a lot of pieces of a team that was actually good a couple years ago. They could surprise the Raiders and end what would have to be a really remarkable run. Oakland can't overlook them at that stage in the season.