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 two of four, and I will cover four games at a time.
Week Five: Bye
Can't lose this one.
Week Six: Raiders at Saints
Last meeting: 31-26 Saints win in Oakland, 2004.
Last year, the Saints underachieved, to say the least. After coming off a surprise NFC Championship appearance in Chicago, 2006's Cinderella team dropped to 7-9.
The Saints offense remained one of the league's best—reaching 13th in scoring, fourth in passing, but a mediocre 28th in rushing. That can be attributed to injuries to running backs Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister.
This year, if the offense remains healthy, and with the new addition of Jeremy Shockey from the Giants, the Saints' offense could be a real challenge for Oakland's defense.
The Saints' defense, on the other hand, was just the opposite, finishing an embarrassing 25th in points allowed, 26th against the pass, but 13th against the run. The run defense should be even better with the additions of LB Jonathan Vilma from the Jets and DT Sedrick Ellis in the draft.
The secondary picked up a couple of players in Randall Gay and Aaron Glenn, who may or may not contribute.
So it is really strength vs. strength and weakness vs. weakness between these two teams, with the Saints' aerial attack against the Raiders' secondary, and the Raiders' trio of backs vs. the Saints' run defense.
The winner will be the team with better QB play and who stops the other team's strength. Since the Saints have already proven their strengths, and the fact that the Saints are at home, I'll give New Orleans the edge in this one.
Final: Saints win 31-20.
Week Seven: Jets at Raiders
Last Meeting: Jets win 23-3 in New York, 2006
The Jets' offseason was nearly as busy as the Raiders'. With new additions such as LB Calvin Pace, DT Chris Jenkins, and rookie OLB Vernon Gholston on defense, there are high expectations for improvement in last year's 29th ranking against the run.
However, the Raiders' rushing attack should more than be able to cope with them. Those additions may not be enough to stop the three-headed monster that is known as Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden, and Michael Bush, who will surely give defensive coordinator Bob Sutton headaches.
The Jets' offense was rather pathetic last year, scoring just under 17 points a game. The passing offense still has no real gamebreaking threat at receiver/tight end, the quarterback situation is a mess, and it remains to be seen whether Thomas Jones can carry the load for an entire season.
The Raiders' defense should be plenty capable to stop the Jets' offense, and the offense should be able to score without too much trouble on the Jets' re-worked defense, using the same formula they used on the Broncos, running, more running, and only passing when necessary.
Final: Raiders win, 24-10
Week Eight: Raiders at Ravens
Last Meeting: Ravens win 28-6, in Baltimore, 2006
The Ravens have been known throughout the decade for their amazing defense. The only problem is that now the decade is almost over, and the defense has aged considerably. How long can they hold up? I'll guess, at most, one or two more seasons, so, for this prediction, they will be a factor.
They have some new players, including former Raiders' cornerback Fabian Washington, who, by all accounts, is no loss. I can't count on two hands the number of big plays given up or the number of tackles he missed last year alone.
The Ravens' offense, which already had issues even moving the ball last year, let alone scoring, lost QB Steve McNair and LT, and perennial All-Pro, Jonathan Ogden to retirement, along with C Matt Flynn, Devard Darling at WR, and backup RB Musa Smith.
Now this team lacks talent and depth at WR, QB, and, to some extent, RB. Willis McGahee is now the only threat on offense, and it has been proven time and time again that one player cannot do everything alone.
If neither teams' offense can score, then special teams and field position will probably play a big factor in this game. The Raiders definitely have the upper hand here, with the two strongest-legged kickers in the league in P Shane Lechler and K Sebastian Janikowski.
Janikowski nearly made NFL history last year when he kicked a field goal against the wind from 64 yards out. Halfway up the right upright. And Lechler averaged an unheard of 49.1 yards/punt net.
If that's the deciding factor, then I think Raiders win it in a low-scoring game.
Final: Raiders win 14-10
Week Nine: Falcons at Raiders
Last time: Falcons win 35-10 in Atlanta, 2004
How 'bout that Falcons' offseason? Not...
Aside from losing their franchise CB (to Oakland, no less), RB, TE, and a host of other players, the Falcons officially entered rebuilding mode when they selected QB Matt Ryan in the draft.
The Falcons have holes everywhere on their roster, except perhaps RB and K, where they snagged two ex-AFC West members in Michael Turner from San Diego and Jason Elam from Denver.
It remains to be seen if Michael Turner can be a full-season starter, or if he goes the LaMont Jordan route, being an exceptional backup/change-of-pace back to below-average starter.
Add in a rookie QB with unreliable receivers (outside of Joe Horn, but can he last all season and be productive at his age?), a shaky O-line, and a defense with more holes than Swiss cheese, and I doubt the Raiders will have much trouble winning this one.
Final: Raiders crack 40 for first time in years with 41-13 rout.
Part Three is coming soon.