Over the next few days, I'm going to take a look at the Raiders' schedule and show how the Raiders and their opponents match up. You may be surprised at how well they stack up against some of these opponents. This is part one of four, and I will cover four games at a time.
Week One: Broncos at Raiders, MNF
Last meeting: 34-20, Raiders.
Two touchdowns is a pretty big difference in the final score. The Broncos will be coming off a disappointing 7-9 season, and they have done virtually nothing to plug the holes in their roster.
They did fire both coordinators, but along with their departures were Matt Lepsis, Rod Smith, Javon Walker, Mike Bell, Travis Henry, and Ian Gold.
Additions included Boss Bailey, Niko Koutouvides, Marlon McCree, Samie Parker, and Dwayne Robertson. None of these players are upgrades over their predecessors. The team will be learning a new defensive system, and the run defense did not improve notably.
All reports indicate the Jay Cutler is healthy again, but the weapons around him have depleted. The loss of Javon Walker will hurt because, when healthy, he is a serious threat.
Brandon Marshall is awaiting a decision from the league on whether or not he will even be allowed to play in this game, and with defensive-line questions, this team will not be able to stop Oakland's new offensive attack.
The Raider ranked sixth in rushing offense last year, with Justin Fargas, Dominic Rhodes, and LaMont Jordan splitting carries. Fargas is the only holdover, coupled with dynamic and versatile rookie Darren McFadden, and the 245-lb. Michael Bush waiting in the wings, the Oakland ground attack should look very formidable to Denver.
JaMarcus Russell, now the team's unquestioned starter at quarterback, will look to Javon Walker, Ronald Curry (Denver fans should remember his sick, twisting, one-handed catch in Denver back in 2004), new acquired Drew Carter (from Carolina), and emerging TE Zach Miller to move the chains and stretch the field. The ground game will also help ease Russell into his role as the team's starter.
Final: Raiders win, 38-17
Week Two: Raiders at Chiefs
Last meeting in KC: Raiders win, 20-17.
Were the schedule makers giving Oakland a break? They gave them two straight opponents they beat last year, in the places they won in, to start the regular season.
The Raiders-Chiefs rivalry has always been one of the best, simply because the animosity towards each other, and the fact that the games between the two are usually won in the last seconds. Throw records, stats, and numbers out the window. When these two teams play, they go at each other all game long.
But it seems the tide is changing in the Raiders' favor in this rivalry, after being on the short end for nine straight games. Last year, the Chiefs had serious trouble keeping leads in the fourth quarter. This year, despite the addition of Glenn Dorsey, it should only be worse. In this rivalry, that won't win you many games.
With the loss of Jared Allen, Ty Law, and a host of other vets, the Chiefs are in full-blown rebuilding mode, with serious questions at quarterback, the O-line, running back (Is Larry Johnson healthy? Is he splitting carries?), WRs (other than Bowe), D-line, and the secondary.
I think Raiders win it with their powerful ground attack, and the Chiefs' lack of offensive firepower/blocking.
Final: Raiders 24-20, in another hard-fought game.
Week Three: Raiders at Bills
Last meeting: Raiders win 38-17, in 2005
The Bills will have a couple of new faces on offense next year. QB Trent Edwards is now the starter and RB Marshawn Lynch will now be an every-down back for them. With no real threat through the air, however, and with Oakland's secondary in man coverage, this leaves the Bills' running game as the biggest threat.
However, Lynch has yet to prove himself as a capable every-down back, and Trent Edwards can't score by himself.
The Raiders' run defense, atrocious at times last year, and stellar other times, was maddeningly inconsistent, giving up huge games to little-knowns such as Kolby Smith (150 yards, 2 TDs) and Ron Dayne (122 yards, 168 in the game), while holding superstars such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Joseph Addai in check (15 carries, 56 yards, and 15 carries, 44 yards, respectively).
The run defense should be much improved this season, however, with a healthy and bulked-up Tommy Kelly playing the inside in place of Warren Sapp (who never was that great against the run), and the behemoth known as Terdell Sands playing nose.
The Bills' defense is their Achilles heel, though. Being the 25th-ranked run defense is not good news when facing the trio of McFadden, Bush, and Fargas. They did add Marcus Stroud and Kawika Mitchell at DT and LB, but two players may not be enough.
The pass defense was, however, embarrassing and with no new players except rookie Leodis McKelvin, it doesn't look to be any better.
I just don't see the Bills being able to stop the Raiders' offensive attack, and the offense, while it has pieces to be good, can't support its leaky defense.
Final: Raiders win 24-13
Week Four: Chargers at Raiders
Last meeting: Raiders lose 30-17 in JaMarcus Russell's first career start
The only game against a 2007 playoff team through the first four weeks is also the only loss I predict for the Raiders before the bye.
The Chargers, on paper, are as talented and well rounded as can be. However, they are not without their issues. The three most important players on offense are coming off serious injuries (Phillip Rivers, torn ACL; Antonio Gates, toe, and LaDainian Tomlinson, sprained MCL).
Rivers and Tomlinson are both reported to have fully healed, but until I see them in action, I will remain skeptical. Rivers can be erratic at times and is a little more turnover-prone than you would like. And playing against a turnover-happy defense like Oakland's isn't good news.
In the Chargers' favor though, is a defense of their own, more than capable of controlling a game. Their suffocating run-defense should slow down Oakland's rushing attack, which, in turn, will make it that much harder on Russell. And a young, inexperienced QB having to throw to win games usually spells trouble.
Oakland can win, if and only if, the run defense plays the way it did in the last meeting, where Tomlinson was held to 56 yards on 15 carries, and they create turnovers from a susceptible Rivers, while limiting their own. However, that scenario isn't too likely.
Barring unforeseen injury concerns I think San Diego wins in a close one, despite a turnover or two from Rivers.
Final: San Diego wins 24-17
Part Two coming soon.