Breakdown: The Oakland Raiders are feeling good about themselves having won free agency, so to speak, but they need to win games on the field to show they have turned a corner. A tough start to the season with three of their first four games on the road -- at New Orleans to open, home against Atlanta, at Tennessee and at Baltimore -- will test their mettle. Then again, at least they will have to play only one regular-season game on the dirt infield of the Oakland Coliseum. One sign of the Raiders' re-emergence in the league: They have three prime-time games (home against the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in Week 9, in Mexico City against Houston two weeks later, and at the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec .8). And if they are in the playoff race, late games against the Colts and the Broncos are prime flex candidates.
Bienvenidos, Los Raiders: Put away the conspiracy talk for now. The league’s schedule makers actually did the Raiders a solid by giving them their bye the week before the international “home” game in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca against the Houston Texans. It gives them a chance to heal and rest up to put forth their best effort in the NFL’s second regular-season game in Mexico’s capital city (the Cardinals and 49ers met there in 2005 and drew a then-record crowd of 103,467). In fact, four of the top eight games with the highest attendance in NFL history have been in Mexico City, three at Estadio Azteca.
Tough start, tougher finish: Not only are three of the Raiders’ first four games on the road, but three of their final four games are away from Oakland against divisional opponents Kansas City, San Diego and Denver. So if the Raiders want to be taken seriously as an up-and-coming team, they have their work cut out for them on both ends of the schedule. They would want it no other way. Another interesting nugget is back-to-back games in Florida in October (at Jacksonville and at Tampa Bay).
Strength of schedule: 15th, .500
Raiders Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18, Atlanta, 4:25 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, San Diego, 4:25 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Kansas City, 4:05 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Denver, 8:30 p.m.
Week 9: BYE
Week 11: Monday, Nov. 21, Houston, 8:30 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Carolina, 4:25 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Buffalo, 4:05 p.m.
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 8, at Kansas City, 8:25 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at San Diego, 4:25 p.m.
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Indianapolis, 4:05 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Denver, 4:25 p.m.