2016 Oakland Raiders game-by-game predictions

The Oakland Raiders are set to open the 2016 season with three of four on the road, close with three of four on the road and play three prime-time games. Nothing will be easy for an up-and-coming team aiming for not only its first playoff berth since 2002 but also its first winning season since that campaign. A three-win jump from 7-9 to 10-6 is a lot, but it is doable, given the improvements Oakland made in free agency.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11 at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET

Talk about a tough opening test. Per the Associated Press, Saints quarterback Drew Brees has not thrown an interception against the Raiders in 209 passes dating to 2003. He might be too sharp for a reloaded team in a road opener. Record: 0-1

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18 vs. Atlanta Falcons, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Falcons are a different team on the road than in their own dome, and the Raiders can’t wait to unleash their weapons in what might be their final home opener in Oakland. Even if they are playing on baseball infield dirt ... Record: 1-1

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25 at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. ET

The cobwebs are shaken off, and the Titans are the perfect foil -- yes, even on the road. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2 at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET

This was a house of horrors for the Raiders in 2012, with Ravens coach John Harbaugh running up the score with a fake field late in a 55-20 victory. But the Raiders upended the Ravens in a clutch victory last season, so confidence is on Oakland's side. Record: 3-1

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9 vs. San Diego Chargers, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Raiders swept the Chargers in 2015 and, having survived the brutal road stretch to start this season, find that nothing has changed ... other than that both teams could have been in Los Angeles this season. Record: 4-1

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16 vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 4:05 p.m. ET

Home is where the heart is, and the Raiders -- who have been flirting with Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Parts Unknown -- are building a fearsome homefield advantage. The Chiefs run into a buzzsaw. Record: 5-1

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23 at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. ET

Trap game, anyone? The Jags, after all, have done some improving of their own in free agency. Record: 5-2

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET

Back-to-back cross-country trips to Florida seems a bit harsh. Maybe the Raiders hang out at Disney World for a week to practice? The Orlando Raiders?!? Record: 5-3

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6 vs. Denver Broncos, 8:30 p.m. ET

Yes, the Broncos defense put on a show last season, dredging up memories of the 2000 Ravens and 1985 Bears. But will it be Mark Sanchez or Colin Kaepernick under center for Denver, and will it matter in the Black Hole? Record: 6-3

Week 10: Bye week

Week 11: Monday, Nov. 21 vs. Houston Texans in Mexico City, 8:30 p.m. ET

The bye week comes at a good time for the Raiders, who need to reset before all the pageantry of an international game, albeit in the Central time zone. Bienvenidos, Los Raiders. Record: 7-3

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27 vs. Carolina Panthers, 4:25 p.m. ET

This is a stern test for the Raiders, who have designs of taking the division crown from the Broncos ... who beat the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Cam Newton thrives on whatever comes out of the Black Hole. Record: 7-4

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4 vs. Buffalo Bills, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Raiders beat the Bills for one of their three victories in 2014. Oakland has improved since then, but Buffalo? Record: 8-4

Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 8 at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:25 p.m. ET

Is that Ben Davidson starting a bench-clearing brawl with a cheap shot on Len Dawson under the lights? No, but Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and, perhaps, Aldon Smith set their sights on Alex Smith. But the short week, travel and Arrowhead Stadium are too daunting. Record: 8-5

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18 at San Diego Chargers, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Raiders have little to no interest in moving to San Diego. They already own it, so to speak, and suddenly, Oakland has its first winning season since 2002. Record: 9-5

Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24 vs. Indianapolis Colts, 4:05 p.m. ET

How different would the Raiders' present be if Terrelle Pryor had been successful in that comeback against Andrew Luck and the Colts in Indy in 2013? Meh. Derek Carr versus Luck is a matchup with of its own merits, and with the Raiders' defense and Carr both coming into their own, the Raiders close the home portion of their schedule with an impressive W. Record: 10-5

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1 at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m. ET

Is this game for the division, or have the Chiefs already wrapped it up? Either way, the Raiders drop a heartbreaker. Playoffs? Ask Jim Mora, and check back. Record: 10-6