Oakland Raiders: Game by Game Predictions for the Second Half of the Season
At the beginning of the 2012 campaign, a 3-4 record eight weeks into the season probably would have seemed acceptable to many in Raider Nation.
Sure, a loss to Miami would have hurt, but with the Dolphins surging, the loss becomes much more tolerable.
With that said, as the Raiders lurk just one game out of the divisional lead and one game out of the wild card, their nine remaining games will determine how the 2012 season is remembered.
With that as a backdrop, we break down all of Oakland's remaining games.
Week 9 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)
What a difference a week makes.
Last Thursday, Tampa Bay came out and shocked the Minnesota Vikings, 36-17, on national television behind an incredible performance from rookie running back Doug Martin.
With momentum building, the Bucs also have an extra three days of rest and preparation before traveling to Oakland.
The key for Oakland will be its ability to stop Martin, leaving the game in the hands of Josh Freeman—the Tampa quarterback who has struggled this season.
If the Raiders can continue to improve their running game and force Tampa Bay to beat them through the air, I like Oakland's chances.
Prediction: Oakland 27, Tampa Bay 13
Week 10 at Baltimore Ravens (5-2)
If Oakland manages to enter this game on a three-game winning streak, this matchup with the Baltimore Ravens on the road will be a huge test.
The Ravens are banged up defensively and might be overrated in regards to their record, but given all of their weapons on offense, Baltimore possesses the big-play ability that has killed Oakland in the past.
However, without Ray Lewis or Lardarius Webb, Oakland's offense should be able to move the ball and compete with Ray Rice and the Ravens offense.
In the end, I think the Raiders come up just short in a tough road game, especially because of the early start time for a West coast team traveling East.
Prediction: Baltimore 35, Oakland 31
Week 11 vs. New Orleans Saints (2-5)
According to my predictions, the Raiders would enter Week 11 with a 4-5 record and still likely involved in the playoff picture.
If the Raiders want to make the playoffs, this is the type of game that will become an absolute must-win.
Unfortunately, it isn't a great matchup for Oakland given New Orleans' penchant for throwing the ball and Oakland's lack of depth at corner.
This game is going to come down to the play of Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden. In the end, I like Palmer's leadership carrying the Raiders.
It also helps that the Saints will be coming off a tough divisional matchup against the Falcons, and if they keep losing, it won't be easy to stay motivated much longer.
Prediction: Oakland 38, New Orleans 35
Week 12 at Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)
Having evened their record for the second time this season, the Raiders enter this game at 5-5 and sitting just outside of the playoffs with six games to go. Fortunately, the Cincinnati Bengals are a team they're competing against for a wild card spot. A win here would do wonders for Oakland's confidence.
I really believe Oakland will only continue to improve as the season progresses as it adapts to the new schemes and plans of Dennis Allen and his staff. If the zone-blocking scheme can improve, Oakland could really surprise some people.
This game will also be big personally for Carson Palmer, who is getting a chance to gain revenge against the team that spited him during his last few seasons in town.
If Oakland can limit A.J. Green (no small feat), I think the Raiders officially enter the playoff picture.
Prediction: Oakland 24, Cincinnati 13
Week 13 vs. Cleveland Browns (2-6)
After a few tough games in the middle of the season, this begins a bit of an easy stretch for Oakland with the exception of a game against Denver.
The key for Oakland is not looking ahead to a matchup with the Denver Broncos just four days later on Thursday night. I think with veterans like Richard Seymour and Palmer, the Raiders stay focused and take care of business in an ugly win against the Browns.
Prediction: Oakland 16, Cleveland 10
Week 14 vs. Denver Broncos (4-3)
Just four days after playing Cleveland, Denver comes to town for its second matchup with the Raiders of the season.
The Raiders are hoping their secondary will be improved by the time Peyton Manning returns to town, but even then, I'm not sure it will matter.
One advantage for the Raiders is that the Broncos travel to Oakland, compounding their short week with even less time to prepare.
I think this game is a toss-up, but in the end, I think the Raiders come up just short. If Oakland did win this game, however, it wouldn't surprise me in the least. I just think Manning against the Oakland secondary is a recipe for disaster.
Prediction: Denver 24, Oakland 17
Week 15 vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1-6)
Having just dismantled the Kansas City Chiefs on the road, I think the Raiders know what it takes to stop the Chiefs offense and will beat them handily for the second time this season.
For the Chiefs, I think the necessity to win will have escaped them long ago as they play in search of one of the top draft picks in 2013.
The Raiders showed that they can limit the Chiefs offense by simply stifling the run. Anytime they play a team that struggles to pass, Oakland should feel very comfortable.
I think Darren McFadden explodes in this one as people around the league finally start to accept that Oakland could really make the playoffs this season.
Prediction: Oakland 30, Kansas City 14
Week 16 at Carolina Panthers (1-6)
With Cam Newton's style of play having lost its luster, the Carolina Panthers have fallen apart this season, including a recent media meltdown from Newton.
Like the Chiefs, the Panthers lack a threatening passing game, which plays into the strengths of the Oakland defense. Like the Chiefs, the Panthers could be in full-fledged tank mode.
Despite having to travel for this game, I think the Raiders earn a much-needed road win in a game that will be closer than people think as they head into a highly-anticipated finale against the San Diego Chargers.
Prediction: Oakland 24, Carolina 20
Week 17 at San Diego Chargers (3-4)
Nothing like a good rivalry game to end the season, especially when only one of the two teams has something to play for.
After a brutal 7-6 loss to the Browns last week, I think it's clear that the Chargers aren't going anywhere and that this will be Norv Turner's last season in San Diego.
With that said, a matchup against Oakland isn't something Phillip Rivers and Co. will be overlooking.
If my predictions stand, the Raiders would be entering this game with a 9-6 record and a real shot at making the playoffs. I think the division will be out of reach, but the wild card is definitely in play.
Fueling the Raiders is also the idea of revenge after their tough Week 1 loss thanks to their special teams' miscues. I think Oakland will jump out on the Chargers early, taking the wind out of their sales and ending their season on a sour note.
Prediction: Oakland 23, San Diego 14
10-6: Good Enough?
If Oakland can finish the season with a 10-6 record—regardless of it's good enough to make the playoffs—morale will be high in Oakland.
With the weakness of the AFC this season, it's tough to envision a scenario in which a 10-win team doesn't make the playoffs.
Fortunately for Oakland, the second half of its season features just two games against a team that currently has a record over .500 (Baltimore).
So what do you think, can this Oakland team finish 10-6? Are the playoffs out of the question?