Trendy Raiders boast five prime-time games as awakened AFC power

Derek Carr and the Raiders are looking to build off a 12-4 season. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released its 2017 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Oakland Raiders.

Breakdown: The Raiders, for the second year in a row, will begin and end their season by playing three of four on the road. They will also again play host to an international affair in Mexico City, this time against the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, and plan to stay at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, presumably between roadies at the Buffalo Bills (Oct. 29) and Miami Dolphins (Nov. 5). Oh, and the Raiders also have the fourth-toughest strength of schedule in the NFL. So yeah, they can actually be a better team than last year’s 12-4 outfit but still have a worse record. TV has noticed the Raiders as a rising power with a franchise record five prime-time games, two at home (Thursday, Oct. 19 against the Kansas City Chiefs and Sunday Dec. 17 versus the Dallas Cowboys) and three on the road (Sunday, Sept. 24 at Washington, Sunday, Nov. 5 at the Dolphins and Monday, Dec. 25 at the Philadelphia Eagles). If this is the Raiders’ last season in Oakland -- owner Mark Davis remains adamant, though, that he does not plan on departing for Las Vegas until 2020 -- it is one heck of a sendoff, schedule-wise.

Ready for prime time players? With the love being shown the Raiders by the NFL schedule makers in awarding them five prime-time games, it’s hard to believe this team began the 2014 season 0-10. A 7-9 season in 2015 ensued, followed by last year’s 12-4 awakening. Having a marquee quarterback in Derek Carr, the league’s defensive player of the year in Khalil Mack and a league-high seven Pro Bowlers will do that, as well as the underlying storyline of the Raiders’ pending move to Las Vegas. Generations ago, the Raiders owned Monday Night Football. Are they ready to reclaim that throne with a road MNF appearance, three Sunday night games (including the regular-season home finale against the Cowboys) and a home Thursday night game against a division rival. Maybe the league wants the Raiders on the road the last two weeks in case the season goes south, thus limiting the possibility of Oakland fans getting more cantankerous than usual for a lame-duck team.

Road warrior Raiders: General manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Jack Del Rio have changed the culture in Oakland 10-fold, as it was not that long ago when the Raiders were sad sacks on the road, especially in the Eastern time zone. No more. The Raiders, who were 1-18 in previous 19 games played three time zones away entering last season, went 3-0 in 2016. And, despite opening and closing with three of four on the road, Oakland went 4-2 in those games a year ago. Still, the Raiders were just 1-2 in that closing stretch last year, costing them the AFC West division title. Of course, Carr dealing with a broken pinkie and then breaking his right fibula in Week 16 was a major factor in the late season stumble.

Strength of schedule: 4th, .564

Raiders Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, NY Jets, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, at Washington, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, at Denver, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 8, Baltimore, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15, Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 7: Thursday, Oct. 19, Kansas City, 8:25 p.m.

  • Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.

  • Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 5, at Miami, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 10: BYE

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19, New England, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 26, Denver, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, NY Giants, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17, Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 16: Monday, Dec. 25, at Philadelphia, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m.