Analyzing the Raiders’ 2014 Opponents
by Jim Turvey
The Raiders’ 2014 schedule hasn’t officially been released yet, but Raiders’ fans do know who they will be playing next year, and which opponents are at home and which are on the road. The Raiders will be playing their typical six games against their own division, and will be playing the entire AFC East, as well as NFC West. Their final two opponents will be the Houston Texans (again) and the Cleveland Browns,
The most difficult games look to be at the Patriots and Seahawks as well as home to the 49ers and Cardinals (in addition to their stacked division). The most winnable games appear to be the Bills and Texans at home, as well as the Jets and Browns on the road. At first blush, the Raiders would look to be hard pressed to reach .500, but there is a lot that still has to happen before the beginning of next season.
So what would be the ideal schedule for the Raiders? Let’s try to align these opponents in the Raiders’ ideal 2014 schedule, with a brief explanation of why each game should take place when it does:
Week 1: Houston Texans
The Texans will be coming off an incredibly disappointing 2-14 season, a season in which they were thought to be contenders before the season. As such, one would assume that having them first on the schedule would not be a good idea since they will be hungry to start the 2014 season on the right foot. However, they will also, in all likelihood, be sporting a flashy new quarterback that they will have taken with the first pick in the NFL draft. Getting this rookie quarterback in his first game would be great for the Raiders, and would hopefully allow them to start off the season with a win.
Week 2: @ St. Louis Rams
This would be a good match up of two teams hopefully headed towards the top of their extremely difficult divisions. It may not be a win for the Raiders, but hopefully they could build confidence with another game in which they were relevant.
Week 3: @ Seattle Seahawks
Have to get it out of the way at some point. Hopefully they will be suffering from a Super Bowl hangover, and maybe we can even hope for a Week 2 49ers match up for the Seahawks, so they’re on double hangover status.
Week 4: Kansas City Chiefs
Hopefully right around this time Chiefs’ fans will be in panic mode as their team has started off the season without the same fire as last year, and maybe the Raiders could catch them off guard. Although this seems a bit unlikely of a divisional opponent.
Week 5: Miami Dolphins
Another team headed up rather than down, the Dolphins will be a stiff test of just how much the Raiders have improved in 2014. If the Raiders want to become a legitimate team in the AFC West, they will have to have a real home-field advantage in O.co, and these are the type of games they will have to win.
Week 6: @ New England Patriots
See: Week 3
Week 7: Denver Broncos
If the Raiders are able to hang with a Patriots’ team that seems to be heading in the opposite direction as the Dolphins and Rams (which is ridiculous for a team that was in the conference finals this year), the Raiders may be able to build confidence from that game heading into arguably their biggest home test of the year.
Week 8: @ Cleveland Browns
Hopefully the Raiders can rebound after two challenging games, and go to Cleveland and get a win before the bye.
Week 9: Bye
Exactly half way through the year, and potentially after a win, this would be a perfect time for Dennis Allen and his staff to get the troops motivated for the rest of the year. It’s not out of the question that the Raiders could be 4-4 at this point.
Week 10: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals offer the most interesting home game in my opinion. They are a cut above the Raiders right now, but with the game being at home, and if the Raiders were to be coming off a bye, this could be one of the closest games of 2014.
Week 11: @ San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are coming off a strong 2013 campaign in which they won their first playoff game since 2008, and as such will be tough competition in 2014.
Week 12: Buffalo Bills
The Raiders will need a break after playing four of their last five games against team that made the playoffs in 2013 (an incredible nine of their sixteen games will be against playoff teams, with three other games coming against teams that finished at least .500; the Raiders seem like a shoe-in for the hardest schedule next year), and the Bills offer a nice chance for a win at home.
Week 13: @ Denver Broncos
This one might hurt.
Week 14: San Francisco 49ers
Ya, this schedule isn’t fun.
Week 15: San Diego Chargers
At least I could talk myself into them winning this one.
Week 16: @ Kansas City Chiefs
Anything can happen in divisional games, and the Chiefs seem primed for a bit of a fall back to earth. At this point of the season, the Raiders will likely be looking towards 2015 (given the brutal schedule and division), but I believe will be more relevant than 2013, with a near .500 record. Given the schedule, an 8-8 season would be a great success.
Week 17: @ New York Jets
Hopefully the Raiders can end the season on a possible high note with a game that seems like a winnable one. Rex Ryan is perpetually on the hot seat, and if the Jets aren’t in contention next season (which seems like a very possible scenario), this game could be a nice end to the season.