Lamarr Houston will be excited to play no matter what order the games are in.
We already knew which teams the Oakland Raiders would play in 2013, but sometimes the order is just as important. Travel to the east coast, home games, division games, cold weather, bye weeks and the unknowns of teams with new coaching staffs all have the potential to impact Oakland’s win-loss record.
There are all sorts of things that can impact the outcome of a game just by the order, but it’s still played between the white lines. The Raiders aren’t a very talented team on the field, so the schedule probably has more power to impact them than it would a perennial playoffs squad.
Here’s a look at the 2013 schedule with game-by-game predictions, information and analysis.
The Raiders will have to knock down Luck to have a chance to win the game in Indianapolis.
Kickoff: September 8, 10:00 a.m. PT
The Raiders are unlucky enough to have to face Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck in 2013. Indianapolis is a great city, but the Raiders would prefer to face great quarterbacks at home.
The last time the Raiders faced the Colts, Jacoby Ford returned a kick 99 yards for a touchdown and the Raiders intercepted Peyton Manning twice. The Raiders still lost 31-26 because they didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the very end of the game.
It’s reasonable to think the Raiders will need a similar performance against the Colts in 2013. A score from the defense or special teams and a couple turnovers will put the Raiders in position to be successful. Of course, the Raiders will have to score on offense as well.
The good news for the Raiders is that the Colts had one of the worst run defenses in the league in 2012 and allowed 5.2 yards per carry. It’s no secret that the Raiders will need a big year from Darren McFadden to be successful, and they could get him going in the climate-controlled Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Raiders will keep it close with the running game, but the passing game in the NFL takes over in crunch time. Expect Luck to get the job done at the end of the game like he did in 2012 when he had seven game-winning drives and four fourth-quarter comebacks according to Scott Kacsmar of Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Score Prediction: Raiders 27, Colts 31
Rashad Jennings was signed by the Raiders to backup Darren McFadden.
Kickoff: September 15, 1 p.m. PT
It took overtime for the Raiders to beat the Jaguars in 2012 at home. The Jaguars didn’t have Maurice Jones-Drew and they converted just one third down with a combination of Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne at quarterback. Just about everything favored the Raiders, but they trailed by 10 points with about 13 minutes to play in the fourth quarter of that game.
The game between these two squads actually foreshadowed how poorly each team would finish in 2012. There has been significant turnover for both rosters this offseason, which makes projecting the game between these two teams difficult. The Jaguars don’t have a franchise quarterback or a good pass-rusher and neither do the Raiders. How each team addresses those two spots may be the difference when the two play in 2013.
Since the Raiders have already addressed their quarterback situation, reverted back to the power running attack that favors Darren McFadden and added what could end up being nine new starters on defense, they should have the edge.
Whichever team does a better job fixing their issues in the draft will likely come away victorious when the two teams meet this season. The Raiders have done more than the Jaguars so far this offseason, are in their second year in the same system and are playing at home. These two teams are probably pretty evenly matched, but the Raiders should get the edge in this one.
Score Prediction: Jaguars 21, Raiders 28
Von Miller is a force and the Raiders don't have an answer.
Kickoff: September 23, 5:40 p.m. PT (Monday Night Football)
Games within the division can be unpredictable, but the talent gap between these two teams is massive. The Raiders don’t have a Peyton Manning (few do), Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Von Miller or Champ Bailey. The Broncos outscored the Raiders 63-19 last season and you can expect more of the same in 2013.
If you can’t match the Broncos on offense, the only way to win is to control the clock to the point that they don’t have enough opportunities and hope for a late break in your favor. The Raiders could lean on the running game, but it will have to be extremely productive for the strategy to work. The NFL favors the passing game to the point that the Raiders could fall behind early just trying to grind the clock.
The Raiders need to play a clean game, come in with a great plan and get a few breaks. It’s never easy to play at the altitude in Denver and the Raiders are at a disadvantage in just about every phase of the game. Even if the Raiders surprise people and are an average team, the Broncos are one of the elite teams in the entire league and won’t sleep on any team after last season’s collapse in the playoffs.
Manning is the most valuable man on the Broncos and the only thing that could alter the projected outcome of this game is if he was unable to play. Given Manning’s age, he’s certainly at risk of missing time, but it’s just not something you can predict because he takes so few hits. The Raiders would do well just to stay competitive.
Score Prediction: Raiders 10, Broncos 27
Mike Shanahan may still be bitter over his firing over 20 years ago.
Kickoff: September 29, 1:25 p.m. PT
The Raiders have retooled their defense, but they will have no answer for a guy like Robert Griffin III if he returns healthy in 2013. Even good defenses struggled to contain Griffin last year and he’s only going to get better with additional seasoning. The Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan also loved to stick it to his former employer when Al Davis was alive and claims the Raiders still owe him $250,000 from his contract.
Zone-blocking and the read-option are two things that Washington deploys to beat a defense, but the Raiders have intimate knowledge of how to stop both strategies. The Raiders used the zone-blocking scheme last year and head coach Dennis Allen was in Denver when Tim Tebow revitalized the read-option that took a foothold in 2012 thanks to Griffin and Russell Wilson.
The best the Raiders can hope for is that the Redskins don’t put Griffin in harm’s way as much in 2013 and that they can stop Alfred Morris. The Raiders may know how to stop the Redskins, but they may not have the personnel to slow them down.
The Redskins did allow 31 passing touchdowns in 2012, but Flynn is too much if an unknown to think he can match Griffin score-for-score. The Raiders might be able to keep is close because it’s a home game, but they will need Flynn to carry the team. There is sure to be a few bad losses until the Raiders totally revamp the roster in the coming years.
Score Prediction: Redskins 38, Raiders 17
Philip Rivers and the Chargers beat the Raiders twice last season.
Kickoff: October 5, 1:25 p.m. PT
The Chargers are a team that’s rebuilding, but they have a proven quality quarterback that makes things a lot easier for the new regime. The Chargers don’t even have to call it rebuilding because they don’t need a quarterback. The Chargers were just two epic collapses away from 9-7 in 2012 and a cruddy performance after the bye week against Cleveland away from a 10-6 record. In other words: The Chargers weren't as bad as their 2012 record might indicate.
Derek Cox and Eric Weddle headline a thin secondary in San Diego that the Raiders should try to exploit. If the Raiders are smart they will spread the Chargers out and attack the lack of depth. San Diego’s other cornerbacks and safeties will be young players or run-of-the-mill veterans. San Diego’s pass rush is also going through a transition, which gives the Raiders an opportunity to open up their passing game.
Even though the Raiders will have some opportunities through the air, the Chargers are very good against the run and could limit Darren McFadden. Matt Flynn is going to have to beat the Chargers with his arm, which is just far too much to ask of him at this point.
It’s unlikely the Raiders will be able to get as much pressure on Philip Rivers as they have in the past because the Chargers are rebuilding their depleted offensive line. The Raiders have also jettisoned most of their good pass-rushers this offseason, which will allow Rivers to burn through Oakland’s patchwork secondary.
Score Prediction: Chargers 31, Raiders 20
Tamba Hali and Alex Smith will now focus their collective energy on beating the Raiders.
Kickoff: October 13, 10:00 a.m. PT
The Chiefs went out and made a big splash by bringing in Alex Smith, but their problems went beyond the quarterback position last year. Quarterbacks are vital, but even a bad one with a good supporting cast can win more than two games.
Smith has been perfectly managed by Jim Harbaugh the last two years, but the Raiders would be wise to try to expose some of his glaring weaknesses. Smith is susceptible to loaded fronts and zone blitzes because a defense doesn’t need to worry about him throwing deep with any regularity.
When Smith does try to go deep, he routinely takes sacks and is prone to fumbling. The Raiders may favor a defense that focuses on taking away touchdowns and playing it safe, but they should try to get Smith to take chances and make mistakes.
Andy Reid’s offense is known for taking advantage of the short-passing game and that’s going to be what the Raiders want to take away from Smith. The Raiders have the linebackers that can cover Smith’s short passes and veteran cornerbacks that have a good feel for playing the short zones.
The Raiders should be able to make enough plays on defense to get a win at home. The offense may not score a ton of points in this one, but a few big plays will be enough to overcome the Chiefs.
Score Prediction: Chiefs 20, Raiders 21
Darren McFadden hasn't been able to stay healthy.
The Raiders get a week to rest and prepare for their next opponent.
The Raiders and Steelers is almost always a close game.
Kickoff: October 27, 1:05 p.m. PT
The Raiders always seem to play the Steelers tough. It could be that Pittsburgh’s aging team was exploited by Oakland’s team speed in the past, but the Steelers are getting younger and the Raiders are getting slower.
Defensively the Raiders will have trouble slowing down Ben Roethlisberger because he can extend plays with his feet and hang tough in the pocket. Since the Raiders don’t have an elite pass-rusher on the team, Roethlisberger will be able to pick Oakland’s bargain-bin secondary apart.
The Raiders do have the benefit of playing at home after the bye week and they beat the Steelers in Oakland last season, so they should have a fighting chance if they can get a few big plays from Darren McFadden. The Raiders got one big play from McFadden against the Steelers last year and common sense says they will need a few more to win in 2013 with Flynn under center.
Score Prediction: Steelers 20, Raiders 13
No one knows what to expect from Chip Kelly.
Kickoff: November 3, 1:05 p.m. PT
No one knows if Chip Kelly’s methods will work in the NFL. Maybe Kelly is a coaching genius, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be an instant success. The Eagles aren’t a great team and the Raiders get to play them at home and later in the season when there is more tape available of his offense. There’s a lot to like about this matchup for the Raiders.
The Eagles have an unstable quarterback situation, which means Oakland’s defense will have a fighting chance. Michael Vick is likely to retain the starting job, but unless he can pass with more consistency, he’s not a true double threat. That leaves LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown as the two running backs the Raiders need to slow down to win.
The Raiders have a defense that is built to stop the run on paper, but Philadelphia’s duo will be a good test. McCoy averaged 4.2 yards per carry and Brown averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season, so the Raiders need to maintain good control of the gaps. Philadelphia’s offensive line is being totally rebuilt, but that’s not necessarily a good thing and Oakland’s defensive line should be able to control the line of scrimmage.
Matt Flynn should be able to get into a groove against the Eagles’ terrible pass defense. The Eagles allowed 33 touchdowns through the air in 2012, which was two more than the next highest team. The Eagles also allowed a 6.8 percent touchdown rate, which was the worst in the league by a wide margin.
Overall yardage and completion percentage against the Eagles was close to league average, which means opposing quarterbacks burned Philadelphia’s secondary. Interceptions can sometimes make the risk worth the reward, but the Eagles had just eight all season.
Two teams with suspect defenses and potentially explosive offenses should make for a fun game to watch. It will be important for the Raiders to win games against weaker opponents and the Eagles certainly qualify.
Score Prediction: Eagles 27, Raiders 29
Turnovers are the key thing against Eli Manning and the Giants.
Kickoff: November 10, 10:00 a.m. PT
The Raiders get to travel to New York twice in 2013, which is a bit unfair for a team from the west coast. The real challenge isn’t jet lag, it’s covering Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, blocking Jason Pierre-Paul and sacking Eli Manning. There’s really no good reason a team should perform worse at 10 a.m. than it does at 1 p.m., even if history suggests it will.
Of all the keys to the game, the Raiders have the best chance of blocking Pierre-Paul because they have a pretty solid left tackle in Jared Veldheer. Putting the heat on Manning and covering Nicks and Cruz could prove to be more of a challenge. As a result the Raiders should be able to generate a decent amount of offense, but will likely struggle to contain New York’s passing attack.
No quarterback was sacked less as a percentage of their attempts than Manning. The Raiders simply don’t have the personnel in the secondary to cover good receivers without pressure. Oakland’s best pass-rusher in the front seven is probably veteran Andre Carter, so there’s a very good chance that Manning will have a lot of time to hit his receivers.
New York’s defense wasn’t especially good against the pass or the run, but they forced 25 turnovers in 2012. The Raiders' best chance to compete with the Giants is to protect the ball. Of the Giants’ seven losses last year, only one team turned the ball over more than once. The Giants were 8-1 when forcing two or more turnovers and 1-6 when forcing less than two turnovers.
If the Raiders can stay balanced offensively, avoid turnovers and somehow devise a way to cover the Giants receivers, they might have a chance in this game. There is just an awful lot that has to go right for the Raiders to win this game on the east coast.
Score Prediction: Raiders 20, Giants 34
The Raiders need to force Matt Schaub to win the game.
Kickoff; November 17, 10 a.m.
The Raiders don’t have an easy road schedule in 2013 and one of the tough games includes going to Houston. The last time the Raiders played in Houston was the day after Al Davis passed away, which started the clock on what would be a new era of football in Oakland.
Despite good season after good season, the Texans can’t break through. The Texans are a team that can win in the regular season and struggles to win in the playoffs for whatever reason. Some of it could be that the team is built around the running game. Specifically, the offense in Houston relies on the zone-blocking scheme that has turned Arian Foster into a star.
The zone-blocking scheme is what sets up the passing game and the rest of the offense. The Raiders should have a pretty good idea of how to stop the zone-blocking scheme since their offensive coordinator brought Houston’s offense to Oakland last year.
Houston’s defense will be a tough nut for the Raiders to crack because they have stars at each level of the defense. J.J. Watt has become the most feared 3-4 defensive end in the entire league, Brian Cushing leads the group of linebackers and Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph are two excellent cornerbacks.
At least on paper, the Raiders shouldn’t be able to do much against a Texans team that didn’t lose to an opponent with fewer than 10 wins in 2012. There is a blueprint, though, and it’s been used by countless teams against the Texans. The Jaguars used in a Week 11 overtime loss to the Texans last season and the Patriots used it to beat the Texans in the playoffs.
It’s actually quite simple: stop Arian Foster and force Matt Schaub to throw. Easier said than done, but it could be as simple as loading the box and having the safeties crash hard while playing a lot of man-to-man defense on the receivers.
Schaub might win the game for his team, but he also might turn the ball over and lose the game as well. If this recipe sounds familiar, it’s because it's the same one the Raiders used to beat the Texans in 2011 when Schaub threw a last-second interception when he could have probably run the ball into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown.
Score Prediction: Raiders 13, Texans 27
The Raiders miss the pass rush provided by Kamerion Wimbley.
Kickoff; November 24, 1:05 p.m. PT
The game against the Titans at home is one of the few on the schedule that the Raiders should win. If the Raiders want to surprise people in 2013, beating below-average teams at home is part of the process.
Jake Locker isn’t the kind of quarterback that can take advantage of Oakland’s defense, which means stopping Chris Johnson will be one of the keys to the game. The Raiders may not be equipped to rush the passer, but they added a lot of solid run defenders in the offseason and should be able to slow Johnson down and give Matt Flynn a chance to put the ball in the end zone.
No team surrendered more points than the Titans last year, so even the Raiders should be able to put a decent amount of points on the board. Kamerion Wimbley returns to Oakland, but the team is very different than the one he was on in 2011. Wimbley helped the Titans become one of the 10 best teams rushing the passer last year, but the Titans still allowed 31 passing touchdowns.
Matt Flynn will need to get the ball out of his hands quickly to take advantage of the pass defense, but that’s basically his specialty. McFadden should also be productive against a defense that allowed 4.2 yards per rush last season. Don’t expect an offensive explosion, but the Raiders should put a few touchdowns on the board and move the ball well enough for Sebastian Janikowski to bang through a couple field goals.
Quick passing with a solid running game plays to the Raiders' strengths on offense. Tennessee's below-average passing game and solid running attack plays to the strengths of Oakland's rebuilt defense. If there’s one game on the schedule that seems to favor the Raiders on offense and defense, it’s this home game against Tennessee.
Score Prediction: Titans 17, Raiders 27
The Raiders need to get after Ton Romo.
Kickoff: November 28, 1:30 p.m. PT (Thanksgiving Day Game)
The Cowboys lost eight games in 2012 and hindsight says they didn’t lose to many bad teams. A 34-21 overtime loss to the Saints in Week 16 hurt, but the otherwise the worst team the Cowboys lost to was the 9-7 New York Giants.
The Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan because of their lack of success last season. Ryan’s defense intercepted just seven passes and allowed opposing running backs to average 4.5 yards per carry. A new scheme may change things in 2013, but don’t bet on a quick turnaround.
The Cowboys’ weaknesses play to Oakland’s perceived strengths. The Raiders should run the ball with Darren McFadden and let Matt Flynn take a few chances when Dallas’ cornerbacks turn their backs in man coverage. The end result should be a decent amount of offense.
Oakland’s defense has been a problem for several years and adding a bunch of bargain free agents isn’t likely going to change their fortunes. Unless the Raiders land a truly transcendent defensive player in the draft, they are going to have trouble defending the pass.
Tony Romo is better than people think and he has Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Miles Austin to target. The Raiders may be able to slow down teams with one or two options in the passing game, but limiting three is just too much to ask of the personnel. Expect a closer than expected game, with the Raiders falling short.
Score Prediction: Raiders 24, Cowboys 28
Mark Sanchez time in New York is slowly coming to an end.
Kickoff: December 8, 10:00 a.m. PT
There aren’t many train wrecks bigger than the one in New York. The Jets basically have a Matt Flynn that turns the ball over and makes too much to release or trade. Mark Sanchez isn’t the future in New York, but they can’t reasonably cut their losses until next year.
The Jets only won six games last year and only one was against a team with a winning record. Beating up on the Bills, Jaguars and Cardinals is hardly an accomplishment. To add insult to injury, the Jets haven’t been able to do much to improve the team this offseason with a tight salary cap situation.
Despite the offense's struggles, the Jets still boast an above-average defense that will keep them in many games. The Raiders need a balanced attack to win, which means a good mix of run and pass. Avoiding Muhammad Wilkerson and running to the outside is probably the best choice on the ground.
Teams from the west coast traveling to the east coast are at a major disadvantage, but the Raiders should still be able to beat the Jets. The Raiders need at least one win on the east coast to legitimize their rebuilding efforts.
Score Prediction: Raiders 24, Jets 14
Jamaal Charles was knocked off his feet a lot when he played the Raiders.
Kickoff: December 15, 1:05 p.m. PT
The Chiefs will improve drastically from last season and could even press for the playoffs, but division games are almost always close. The Raiders got the best of the Chiefs twice last season, but the two teams split the series in 2011. It would make sense for the two sides to split the games again in 2013 based on some improvement by each club.
Stopping the Chiefs could be as simple as slowing down Jamaal Charles, which is something the Raiders did extremely well in 2012. In fact, no one team slowed down Charles better than the Raiders. Only the Bills held Charles to fewer yards, but Charles was essentially benched in the second half of that game. The Raiders are one of only three teams to hold Charles under 50 yards rushing on the season.
It’s pretty remarkable that the Raiders slowed Charles down the way they did when you consider Charles had 1,509 yards rushing and teams were always stacking the box against him. The Raiders also brought in a big run-stopper in Pat Sims to play defensive tackle to go along with Lamarr Houston at defensive end.
If the Raiders can stop Charles, the Chiefs will have to put the load on Alex Smith. Jim Harbaugh proved in San Francisco that taking the load off of Smith was the way to win with him, so stopping the run is key. Forcing Smith to throw a lot of passes is the key to beating him.
However, Andy Reid will figure out a way to utilize Charles and keep him involved in the game. The Chiefs went away from Charles too early last year when he was struggling, which was a mistake because he's a threat to break a long run at any time. Expect a close contest with the Chiefs slipping past the Raiders at Arrowhead.
Score Prediction: Raiders 27, Chiefs 28
Sebastian Janikowski always seems to have a couple game-winning field goals.
Kickoff: December 22, 1:25 p.m.
The Raiders essentially have a ninth home game every year when they travel to San Diego. Maybe it’s not quite as hospitable as Oakland, but the Raider Nation usually shows up in good numbers. It’s always nice not to have a stadium packed full of fans that can disrupt the offense—especially since the NFL relaxed the noise rules.
San Diego won both games in 2012 by a score or less and the teams are more closely matched than people believe. The biggest thing the Chargers have going for them is Philip Rivers at quarterback, but they need to protect him and get more from their running game.
Rivers will find openings against the Raiders, but so will Matt Flynn against San Diego’s secondary. The game will likely come down to one final drive and the kicker you trust to make a long field goal as time is expires. Sebastian Janikowski seems to have one or two game-winning field goals every season and one in San Diego seems like the right moment this year.
Score Prediction: Raiders 28, Chargers 27
Peyton Manning didn't have much trouble with the Raiders in 2012.
Kickoff: December 29th, 1:25 p.m.
No matter how improved the Raiders are on defense in 2013, they are going to have a hard time stopping Peyton Manning and his trio of receivers. Denver’s defense is—at times—equally formidable with Von Miller, Champ Bailey and Wesley Woodyard controlling three levels of the defense.
Frustrating Manning and forcing him to move in the pocket is the best way to limit his brilliance, but slowing him down is only one half of the game. The Raiders also don’t have a pass-rusher currently capable of bothering Manning and he’s so smart that frustrating him is rare. The Raiders will need to score and score often to keep pace with Manning, which they didn’t show the capability of doing last year.
The Raiders' best chance will be to have a healthy and productive Darren McFadden chewing the clock and a smart and accurate Flynn getting it done in the red zone. Attacking Denver’s defense up the middle on the ground is the smart game plan, but only if the offensive line can get McFadden through the hole and to the second level.
With a good ground game established, the Raiders could test Denver’s secondary deep. The Broncos don’t have cornerbacks with good long speed and they rely on consistent pressure. Play-action passes and excellent pass protection would give the Raiders a fighting chance.
There’s a lot that would have to go right for the Raiders to pull off a win against the Broncos, even if the game is in Oakland.
Score Prediction: Broncos 28, Raiders 14