The Raiders road to the Super Bowl isn’t easy, and will be full of possible hurdles, but we see another good year ahead for Jack Del Rio and his squad.
While the NFL world and the Raiders continue to scour the transaction sheet in search of that illusive missing piece for the coming 2017 season, we decided to sit down and look ahead to the regular season and what it holds for the Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders are coming off a preseason in which they could not win a game during the four-game stretch that is the scrimmage season. Despite this, and the fact we all know wins and losses in the preseason mean nothing, there was great progress and excitement around the team led by the return of its franchise quarterback Derek Carr. Add in the addition of explosive – and sometimes controversial – running back Marshawn Lynch, and no one came out of the preseason worried about the Raiders offense.
What did cause concern were lingering – but addressable – questions concerning the defense and the slew of talented rookies drafted by Reggie McKenzie this year. McKenzie turned heads when he drafted Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley with the team’s first selection. Not because there was any question about the kids talent – or the Raiders need for playmaking defensive backs – but because of an off-the-field pending sexual assault allegation against Conley. Fortunately, the incident didn’t lead to any charges and Conley made it to camp – where he didn’t play due to a shin injury.
In fact, the Raiders two top picks in Conley and Obi Melifonwu combined to see action in just over 20 snaps during the entire preseason. Not exactly enough plays to make you feel like the kids were going to have an out-of-the-gate impact in 2017.
Despite this, the team continues to grow, mature, and get the experience required to take them deeper into the playoffs in 2017. At the time of this writing, the team still has not addressed its glaring need for linebackers to shore up an improving defense, but as we said, McKenzie is a talented strategist who should find the pieces necessary to improve the defense enough to ally most concerns.
Of course, 2017 was the year of relocation for the Raiders. The vote, subsequent hysteria, and hype, concerning the team’s 2020 move to Las Vegas dominated the sports headlines for weeks and months. The move doesn’t impact the 2017 season one bit, but it still will be the subject of many questions and curiosity whenever the Raiders roll into an opposing city.
The Raiders 2017 schedule has some tough games, some intriguing storylines and should play out well for the boys in black and silver. Here’s our breakdown of the season game-by-game and where we believe the team will end the regular season.
Week 1 @ Tennessee Titans
The Raiders begin the season on the road with a particularly interesting challenge for them their newly revamped defense. Tennessee might not scare you on the face of it, but their running game, led by Las Vegas and Bishop Gorman HS product Demarco Murray, will present the Raiders and its young defensive front (and thin linebacker corps) significant challenges all day. The Titans were third in rushing yards year and have a penchant for long, big plays. Something the Raiders must limit.
Quarterback Macrus Mariota, who like Carr broke his fibula last December, is getting better by the year and should see more opportunities to move the ball downfield with Murray and Derrick Henry opening the passing game for him.
Despite the challenge Tennessee faces, its defense won’t be able to contain Carr and the Raiders enough to win the game, even at home. It won’t be a blowout, but expect the Raiders to start the season in the win column with a nice, hard-fought, grind-it-out win.
Score: Raiders 28, Titans 23
Week 2 vs. New York Jets
The Raiders return home for the Oakland home opener against a putrid New York team who seemingly can’t get anything right. They’ve tapped 38-year old journeyman quarter back Josh McCown their starter under center to lead a team which has seen a massive roster (and salary) dump since last season.
Although they retained once superstar Matt Forte at running back, it’s still questionable he’ll get the most carries on a club that likes youngster Bilal Powell. He pushed Forte all preseason and a more even assignment of duties could be coming to the Jets backfield.
Defensively the Jets aren’t much to fear. Carr and the Raiders should have a relatively easy time of it against the New York defense who boasts no one to speak of on the defensive side of the ball, frankly.
Look for the Raiders to put up points early and have reserves see some time after the game is in hand after the start of the second half.
Score: Raiders 38, Jets 10
Week 3 @ Washington
There are some marked comparisons between the Raiders and Redskins when it comes to the defensive side of the ball. Despite bringing in start cornerback Josh Norman last year, the Redskins still gave up lots of points with their improved defense. They racked up 38 sacks last year but still were outscored plenty resulting in a less-than-satisfying 2016 campaign.
Add in the Redskins inability to score in the red zone, the matchup with the Raiders looks favorable for Raider Nation. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has proved he belongs in the top tier of NFL quarterbacks, but his roster has seen massive turnover and early in the season expect him to still be searching for a rhythm with new personnel. All of this means a favorable trip to FedEx Field for the Raiders.
Score: Raiders 30, Redskins 24
Week 4 @ Denver Broncos
A rivalry game. The Raiders and Broncos have always hated one another so the games are often unpredictable – especially on the road in the AFC West. As our own Kirk Kern said in his AFC West preview, quarterbacks and coaches mean all the difference in the tough and tumble west.
The Broncos are dismal at quarterback and so their season will follow suit. Denver has a very solid and capable receiving corps but can the not-ready-for-prime-time quarterback Trevor Siemian even get them the ball? We say he will – on occasion. The Raiders must respect the wide receivers and tight ends but look for a lack of consistency to benefit Oakland.
Von Miller is always a factor on the Broncos defense but the Raiders offensive line should limit his overall impact on the game. Denver’s defense – once great defense – is in decline which will play right into the Raiders offensive plans. Gone is defensive genius Wade Phillips (mentor to Oakland’s own John Pagano) and gone too is the fear the defensive use to strike in the minds of the opponents.
Even with a roster in decline, it is an AFC West division game on the road. Look for Denver to play on emotion but the Raiders to leave the Mile High city with another win.
Score: Raiders 24, Broncos 20
Week 5 Baltimore Ravens @ Raiders
Speaking of declining defensive units: the Baltimore Ravens are no longer the once dominate force they once were in the AFC. Age, roster changes, and injury have all changed the face of the former championship squad. This should help the Raiders offense exploit those holes in a home game that could propel the Raiders to a 5-0 record.
Still, as history tells us, these two teams always play close games. Too close. So don’t expect this game to be any different. With the addition to elusive running back Danny Woodhead, and continued excellence at the tight end spot for Baltimore, expect and back and forth affair.
Quarterback Joe Flacco, who had been the example of consistency, has not been so the past few years. Age and injury are catching up to him but with the short passing game and keen game mind, he’ll still help the Ravens score against the young and learning Oakland defense.
This one will be a shootout, with lots of points, but the Raiders will continue to roll and remain perfect at home.
Score: Raiders 38, Ravens 35
Week 6 LA Chargers @ Raiders
Here come the newly relocated Carson/Inglewood/Los Angeles, former San Diego Chargers. In the
Carson/Inglewood/Los Angeles can score at will, at times, and ranked in the Top 10 last year in scoring. Expect Rivers to significantly challenge the Raiders youth and gaps on defense and put up a ton of points on Oakland. With tight end Hunter Henry and wide receiver Keenan Allen leading the way for the
Dolts Bolts, it’s going to be a long day and whomever wants it more will prevail.
The Chargers, despite dire predictions by some they may win only 3-4 games, have an improved defensive front who will challenge the Raiders top offensive line. It’s a game of matchups and this one will give the Raiders fits.
The Chargers may have improved on paper in some defensive categories, but Carr will have a big day and will use both tight ends and receivers (and Lynch out of the backfield) for a massive day. Expect at 400+ yard day for the quarterback as he shoots it out with Rivers.
Honestly, this game could go either way. We’ll side with the Raider since it’s at home and considering the Chargers haven’t beat the Raiders since they topped Oakland 14-6 in 2014 in a game in San Diego.
Score: Raiders 41, Chargers 40
Week 7 Kansas City Chiefs @ Raiders
Chiefs games at home – does it get any more amped than this?
The Chiefs are the only other real contender in the AFC West and, to give away a little of our prediction later, expect a split this season. The Chiefs return their core roster and have made some nice additions to keep the heat on the Raiders.
Kansas City has won five of the last six against the Raiders and Andy Reid’s punishing ground game is going to give Oakland all it can handle up front. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. will need to continuously rotate his interior players to keep up with the pounding it will take. This game will be the team’s biggest test of depth on the defensive front challenging its young additions and veterans as well.
Because of the brutal war in the trenches on both side all day long, expect a low-scoring affair with a surprise – the split will have both teams winning on the road, which we’ll explain later.
Score: Chiefs 20, Raiders 17
Week 8 @ Buffalo Bills
Traveling across country for road games is always tough – no matter who you are. But the Raiders will face a thin Buffalo Bills team that doesn’t present them with many challenges. If focused, the Raiders should easily be able to outscore the Bills and hold them to under 20 points defensively.
Expect a shorter day for Derek Carr and the started in this one. Outside of some excitement from Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Buffalo’s offense is anemic at best. This will be a good rhythmic workout for the defense after a tough game the week prior against Kansas City.
Score: Raiders 38, Bills 14
Week 9 Raiders @ Miami Dolphins
Two weeks in a row on the East Coast is tough on the Raiders. Add in a late start on Sunday Night Football, and it’s a tough road.
With an improving Dolphins ready to take on Oakland in the heat of Miami, expect this game to be as tough as they get. Yes, the Dolphins are now led by the much-maligned Jay Cutler at quarterback. Yet expect him to have a pretty good season. He’s been reunited (and it feels so good) with former Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase who did get a great year out of Cutler his last in Chicago in 2015. He will flourish much more playing at home in the warm weather of South Florida.
Running back Jay Ajayi is the real deal and will give the Raiders interior defense fits all day. This will wear down the defense and allow Cutler more opportunities to hit his targets in the mid-range and down field passing game.
Like the Chiefs game in Oakland, this could go either way. But we think the home field advantage will push it over the top for the Dolphins.
Score: Dolphins 28, Raiders 24
Week 10 – Raiders Bye
A great time for the bye heading into the stretch of the season after two consecutive road trips to the East Coast.
Week 11 New England @ Raiders in Mexico City
This is the game everyone has circled on their calendar. While they’re all important, Raider Nation knows the AFC Championship runs through New England. If the Raiders are to take the mantle and become the class of the AFC, this game has important undertones for sure. While Mexico City isn’t Oakland, it is a home game for the Raiders both on paper and with the large contingent of Raider Nation in the capital city.
You must believe Jack Del Rio, coming off a bye week, will work his improved running game to grind out the clock and keep the Patriots offense, and Tom Brady, off the field as much as possible. The Patriots – and their slew of weapons – are going to score. Add in an improved (if you can believe it!) New England defense, and it could be a long day.
But, being the optimists that we are, we think the Raiders defense will grow and improve enough to keep this game very close. Coupled with an offense clicking on all cylinders, we’ll take the Raiders in the upset – and a game that will propel them the remainder of the season.
Score: Raiders 30, Patriots 28
Week 11 Broncos @ Raiders
This has the potential to be a big let-down game after the big victory against New England. It will be and a close, close game – even in Oakland.
Look for the road weary offense to sputter a bit but still pull out a victory against the Broncos who will either be a car with no wheels or a team that has found its identity.
Score: Raiders 17, Broncos 14
Week 13 New York Giants @ Raiders
The Giants are talented but overrated. At this point in the season, we’ll see where they are at. Either way, the present some matchup issues for the Raiders which means this is a close game.
We don’t know how he does it, but Eli Manning has a way of keeping his team in games. With wideouts Odell Beckham, Jr., and now Brandon Marhsall, they will stretch the Raiders defense effectively making this one a shootout – but a low scoring one.
Look for the Raiders to prevail at home in a nerve-racking nail-biter.
Score: Raiders 16, Giants 14
Week 14 Raiders @ Kansas City
Turnaround is fair play and the Raiders will need to win this one to take the lead in the AFC West – and they will.
The Chiefs offense seems to do much better in November and December which might be ominous for the Raiders. Still, again being the half-glass-full staff that we are, we think the Raiders will too be on a big role here having won five in a row. This is the game the Raiders exert their dominance in the AFC and set themselves up well for their playoff run.
The Chiefs are tough at home – especially against the Raiders. At this point the Raiders defense has continued to get better or falters. We like the odds they will have improved enough to give the Chiefs a crushing loss at Arrowhead in a true, old-fashioned AFC West shootout in the biting cold of Kansas City. A massive win for the AFC West Champion-bound Raiders.
Score: Raiders 38, Chiefs 36
Week 15 Dallas Cowboys @ Raiders
The Raiders return home on a high after the big win in Kansas City to face the surging NFC’s Cowboys. Oakland will be a buzz with the hated Cowboys in town with their electric quarterback Dak Prescott.
Prescott and the improved Dallas defense will give the Raiders all they can handle. Prescott doesn’t turn over the ball a lot meaning Oakland will have to win this game on the shoulders of Derek Carr. That’s a lot to ask after the previous five-game winning streak.
Expect the Cowboys to bruise the Raiders defense with Ezekiel Elliott and Prescott to have a banner day. Raider Nation goes home disappointed as the Raiders drop their second home game of the season to end their big win streak.
Score: Cowboys 24, Raiders 17
Week 16 Raiders @ Eagles
Again, the Raiders find themselves on the East Coast in frigid Philadelphia. Alshon Jeffery will give the Raiders defensive backfield fits, although they should hold their own. With the capable Carson Wentz under center, the Raiders will have their work cut out for them but nothing like they’ve faced taking on Prescott the week before.
Still, late in the season, in the cold, even against the middle of the road Eagles, the Raiders will find themselves in a tough battle.
A lot of this game will hinge, depending on the weather, with the Raiders running game. If they can control the clock with a punishing ground game, they could eek out a win on the road getting their 12th win.
Don’t plan on it. Despite some favorable matchups, look for the Eagles to give the Raiders their second consecutive loss and for many in Raider Nation to get nervous after an almost flawless first 15 weeks for the Silver and Black. Carr will have a good bounce-back game against an average Eagles defense setting the stage for the playoff run despite the Raiders coming up short.
Score: Eagles 27, Raiders 26
Week 17 Raiders @ Chargers
There’s still a lot of unknowns, but the Raiders should have the chance to tie up the AFC West championship with a win against the Chargers in their quaint temporary home on New Year’s Eve. The soccer stadium should be full of Los Angeles Raider Nation as the Chargers will have been eliminated – yet again – from playoff contention a few weeks earlier.
Still, as the Raiders learned from their close home win against the Chargers, they can score and score fast. If the Raiders defense is at full strength, they should be able to dispatch the Chargers. Unfortunately, due to the Chargers offensive weapons, Derek Carr and the offensive starters won’t get any time off unless the AFC races have lined up enough to make the game meaningless.
If the game has meaning, expect the Raiders to win convincingly even on the road. If the game is meaningless, score and outcome won’t matter.
Score: Raiders 34, Chargers 20
Playoff Seedings: Raiders with #2, at worst #3
There you have it. Yes, we’re a bit unconventional compared to some of the big national predictions but we’re being bold. We like the Raiders this season and believe fully the organization will do what it takes to address the teams needs on defense to make the difference in 2017.