Does the 2017 schedule suggest the Raiders will maintain their commitment to excellence?
The 2017 NFL schedule has been released, and pundits everywhere are already predicting teams’ records for the upcoming season. Not so fast everyone! We haven’t even made it to the NFL Draft, so predicting how a teams’ season will play out in April is a bit premature. However, that does not mean we cannot analyze teams’ schedules based on their difficulty and how many prime-time games they will be playing. Being the Raiders fan that I am, I thought it would be engaging to assess the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders’ 2017 schedule.
Week 1: Sep 10 @ Tennessee Titans
Week 2: Sep 17 New York Jets
Week 3: Sep 24 @ Washington Redskins (Sunday Night Football)
Week 4: Oct 1 @ Denver Broncos
Week 5: Oct 8 Baltimore Ravens
Week 6: Oct 15 Los Angeles Chargers
Week 7: Oct 19 Kansas City Chiefs (Thursday Night Football)
Week 8: Oct 29 @ Buffalo Bills
Week 9: Nov 5 @ Miami Dolphins (Sunday Night Football)
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Nov 19 New England Patriots* (Home game in Mexico City)
Week 12: Nov 26 Denver Broncos
Week 13: Dec 3 New York Giants
Week 14: Dec 10 @ Kansas City Chiefs
Week 15: Dec 17 Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football)
Week 16: Dec 25 @ Philadelphia Eagles (Monday Night Football)
Week 17: Dec 31 @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Raiders 2017 schedule appears to be tougher than their schedule in 2016. For starters, three out of their first four games this season are on the road. They first travel to Nashville to face the Titans week 1, go home to have their home opener against the Jets week 2, fly back east to the nation’s capital to face the Redskins on Sunday Night Football week 3, and then travel to Denver to face their division rival Broncos week 4. The Titans are a team on the rise much like the Raiders, the Redskins are tough at home, and any divisional match-up is always a war. We’ll definitely learn a lot about the Raiders within the first four weeks of the season.
The Raiders also play the NFC East, arguably one of the toughest divisions in football. All of the teams in that division had seven or more wins last year, making their 2017 campaign against the NFC more difficult than last year when they faced the lowly NFC South. Interestingly enough, three of their last five opponents are from the NFC East, as they will face the Giants at home week 13, the Cowboys at home week 15 on Sunday Night Football, and the Eagles in Philadelphia week 16 on a Christmas Day edition of Monday Night Football. This is arguably their toughest stretch of games in 2017, as they also have two road games against division rivals Chiefs and Chargers sprinkled in to end the regular season.
The Raiders also have a relatively late bye week this year, as they will play in nine regular season games before having their bye week in week 10. Personally, I prefer later bye weeks, as it gives teams a chance to rest and replenish themselves before the home stretch of the season. Additionally, their bye week comes before their most important game of the season and is also a potential AFC Championship preview: a “home” game against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Patriots in Mexico City. As wrestling legend Ric Flair once said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” This game would allow the Raiders to prove themselves as the heir apparent to the AFC throne, and maybe even as the team to beat in the AFC.
Unlike previous seasons where the Raiders struggled to be featured in prime-time match-ups, the Raiders will play in five prime-time games in 2017. They will play three games on NBC’s Sunday Night Football: @ Redskins, @ Dolphins, and home against the Cowboys. They will also be featured in a mandatory CBS/ NFL Network Thursday Night Football (*aka the plague of the earth*) match-up against their division rival Chiefs, and a previously mentioned ESPN Monday Night Football Christmas Day showdown against the Eagles. After going 12-4 last season, the Raiders caught the eyes of many, resulting in them being under the spotlight more frequently in 2017.
Lastly, it would be unfathomable to talk about the Raiders’ 2017 schedule without mentioning the news of their move to Las Vegas in the near future. Not since the 1995 Cleveland Browns has a team had such high aspirations going into the season while also experiencing such a mammoth distraction during it. Of course the players will say it’s not a distraction and that they want to focus on the on the field results, that’s what they are paid to do. But one must wonder if the constant pestering of their future move to Las Vegas will play a dooming role during their season. This is especially pressing considering their final game in the Oakland Alameda Coliseum could be their biggest game of the season in a possible Super Bowl match-up against the Cowboys.
While the Raiders will face an uphill battle considering owner Mark Davis’ decision to relocate the team to Las Vegas and a tougher schedule in 2017, the Raiders will be a popular pick to win the AFC West and make it to the Super Bowl. They have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in DE Kahlil Mack, who will look to continue his dominance. They have an explosive offense led by franchise QB Derek Carr. Whether you are a fan of them or not, there’s little doubt the Raiders will be a compelling team to watch throughout 2017.