This season the Oakland Raiders will clash with the National Football Conference South; the American Football Conference South and two games each against division rivals. With the high expectations this season, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2003 will be no easy feat. Having to face the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos twice, the Super Bowl runner-up Panthers and an up and coming AFC South division loaded with young talent, the trip to Super Bowl XLI will come with its challenges.
Oakland begins its season having to travel for three of their first four games. Their first stop is in The Big Easy when they take on the New Orleans Saints. Winning in New Orleans has been anything but “easy” for the silver and black. Oakland has not won in New Orleans since 2002.
The Raiders’ home opener comes in week two when they welcome Julio Jones to town. Jones and the rest of the high flying Falcons started the 2015 season off with a 5-0 record but fizzled out losing eight of their final 11 games to miss the playoffs.
Week three sees the Raiders travel to The Music City to take on the Titans. During the offseason, Tennessee vamped up their roster signing DeMarco Murry, Rishard Matthews and Brice McCain during free agency. Tennessee also hired new head coach Mike Mularkey and General Manager Jon Robinson this offseason. A road win for the Raiders would be music to Raider Nation’s ears.
Oakland continues to rack up the air miles as they make a trip to the east coast to face off with the Ravens in week four. Baltimore missed the postseason last year for the second time in three seasons since winning the Super Bowl in 2012. This should be a hard fought game as both teams are known for their physicality.
A month into the season see Oakland’s first AFC West opponent. Oakland hosts Philip Rivers and the Chargers in week five. Oakland swept the Chargers last season, including a thrilling 23-20 Christmas Eve overtime win at O.Co Coliseum. However, Oakland was swept by San Diego in 2014.
Week six sees Kansas City come to Oakland. The Chiefs went 11-5 in 2015 having won their final 10 regular season games. The Chiefs reached the AFC Divisional Playoffs last season before losing to New England 27-20 to end their season. If Oakland wants to make a serious push towards the playoffs, they must win this game.
Oakland will travel to Florida for weeks seven and eight to face off against two up and coming teams. Week seven Oakland travels to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, who are hoping to snap an eight year playoff drought. The Jaguars showed promise last season with their young offensive core that features Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Week eight sees Oakland traveling back to the Sunshine State to take on Tampa Bay. It seems like forever since Super Bowl XXVII where Tampa Bay humiliated the Raiders 48-21. Since then Tampa Bay has only made two playoff appearances and held last year’s top pick in the draft where they drafted quarterback Jameis Winston.
The Raiders then will be featured on NBC Sunday Night Football. Week nine Oakland hosts the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos on the national stage. Before we get ahead of ourselves, this is not the same Broncos team from a season ago. The retirement of Peyton Manning leaves a question mark for the champions. Much like their matchup with Kansas City, this is a statement game for Oakland. To be on the national stage against the world champions (this late in the season) this is a must win for Oakland.
The well-traveled Raiders see a break in the schedule with their bye week in week 10. However, Oakland hits the road for a Monday Night Football game south of the border. Yes, Oakland’s week 11 “home game” will feature Oakland taking on the new look Houston Texans in a game scheduled for Mexico City. The defending AFC South champions revamped their offense during the offseason, welcoming in quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller to the roster.
Week 12 sees the Raiders welcome the defending NFC champion Panthers to town. It is highly unlikely Carolina duplicates their 15-1 record from last season, but nonetheless, this will be a tough challenge for the silver and black. With the 2015 MVP Cam Newton coming to town the Raiders upgraded defense will have to be at full force to try and stop the mobile quarterback.
Week 13 concludes Oakland’s four game home stand as they welcome Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills. Buffalo holds the longest playoff drought as the Bills last playoff appearance came in 1999.
Back on the national stage as Oakland has their final regular season national televised game. Thursday Night Football will see the Raiders on a short week as they travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on division rival Kansas City. Three of their final four games are on the road against divisional opponents.
Oakland heads to Southern California in week 15 to clash with the Chargers. With any luck, Oakland will secure a playoff berth with a road win.
For the second consecutive year, Oakland will be playing on Christmas Eve. Week 16 sees the Raiders host Andrew Luck and the Colts in the team’s final home game of the regular season.
New Year’s Day normally sees college football dominate the television, but this year for week 17, the NFL regular season finale takes place. Oakland travels to Denver for the season finale. If the Raiders have not punched their ticket to the postseason by then, they will have to knock off the defending champs in the Mile High city.