Oakland Raiders Schedule 2011, Act II : Texas Makes Me Weary for Home
Hello, and welcome to the second (and quite late) edition of my Oakland Raider 2011 season preview.
Between family, Easter and recent legal wranglings NFL style, it's been tough to get back to it, but enough excuses. Without further ado, I bring you games five, six, seven and eight of the Oakland Raiders' 2011 season.
This is going forward on the assumption that the Raiders beat the Broncos and the Bills, and lose to the Jets and the Patriots in the first four, making them 2-2 going into the second quarter of the season.
It's not the result that will make them weary for home; just the thought of playing Houston yet again, with a track record that's less than stellar in recent seasons.
It's one of six early East Coast games on the slate for the Raiders, games in which they've traditionally struggled. But when you factor in home games against the Jets, Patriots, Browns, Bears, and Lions, it could've been much, much worse.
Despite the fact that I think they can and will win this game as the teams stand at this point, the Raiders will clearly be glad to return to the friendly borders of Northern California after traveling to Houston to face their new arch-rivals.
After all, Overstock.com Coliseum is waiting.
Game 5: Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
Much like the Jets, although the Houston Texans do not play in the AFC West, they have played the Raiders enough - and beaten them - in recent history to warrant being hated as any other rival team.
Houston is entering its 10th season in the NFL, their inaugural season being 2002. In every year since, with the exception of 2002, 2003 and 2005, the Texans have squared off against the Silver & Black.
And despite being relatively young in regards to franchise life, they've only lost ONE of those games, against a weak 2008 Raider team that won only two games all season.
Suffice it to say, the Raiders have some issues with the Texans. To wit:
Last season, a vastly improved Oakland Raider team took the field against a depleted Texans team who were missing top-flight receiver Andre Johnson (whom they sat as a precaution; and a slap in the face to the Raiders, to be honest) and league-leading rusher Arian Foster, who was benched for the first half due to team rules violations.
The Raiders held up somewhat but failed to take advantage of the depleted roster and build a lead. Then, when Foster came in, the Raiders forgot how to tackle, looked dead in the water and limped their way to another defeat.
Many of the players on the roster were new, and thus not used to losing to Houston. However, as the season progressed, the Raiders looked to be a superior team to the Texans; they just had not found themselves when they played Houston in Week 4.
This season they know who they are. They know who Houston is. And they don't like each other.
Even though this one is being played away from the friendly confines of the newly minted (and cringe-inducing) Overstock.com Stadium in Oakland, I anticipate the Raiders using last season and their relative lack of success against a mediocre Houston franchise as motivation to pummel some steer.
Game 6: Oakland Raiders vs. Cleveland Browns...Home Sweet Home
As mentioned before, the outdated and completely illogical moniker of "Oakland Alameda County Coliseum" was mercifully put to rest and replaced with the much sleeker, more practical Overstock.com Stadium, a name that really speaks to the heart and soul of Oakland's community.
The Browns will jump over to Oakland in Week 6, yet another game against a cold weather opponent the Raiders either get at home, or early in the season. Good stuff.
By this time Cleveland will be panicking because Colt McCoy will either a) be severely injured or b) have shown he's not all that good, and they'll be leaning heavily on Peyton Hillis—who will, of course, have broken his femur as the result of being in the discussion for the Madden cover, which won't be a good idea.
The Raiders, meanwhile, will be humming along with their new power running scheme, and Kamerion Wimbley gets about 12 sacks in this one.
I can see the Raiders winning this one easily for one reason: no more Rob Ryan. Rob Ryan had Cleveland playing hard and intense defense last season, and knew the Raiders inside and out. I think they take a step back in the intensity department, and their new defensive coordinator doesn't have the luxury of having coached his opponents.
I think the Raiders are at the very least 4-2 at this point, with the only realistic losses I see coming to either New England, NYJ or Houston. But I think we can win two, or even all three of those games based on the first two being at home and us being due against Houston.
Game 7 : Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
If there is one team in the AFC West I see taking a precipitous - and very enjoyable - free fall, it's Kansas City.
They played over their heads last season, and that much was made obvious by the drubbings both the Raiders and then Ravens placed on them in their house in consecutive games.
Chiefs fans liked to point out the Raiders game was meaningless and hence the Raiders should've won, despite Matt Cassel, Todd Haley, and the rest of the Chiefs to a man insisting both before and after the game that they were going to play their starters, and full out.
Which they did, until they were getting whooped so badly there was no point leaving them in for further embarrassment/chance of injury.
This season, the Chiefs play arguably the toughest schedule of any AFC West team; this game comes right after a bye and kicks off a stretch in which they play only two teams with losing record from 2010 for the rest of the season.
In the eight games after they play Oakland, only Denver had a losing record in 2010, and they play Pittsburgh and Green Bay at home - last year's SuperBowl contestants - and they also play Chicago, the Jets and New England - three of the four conference championship game participants - on the road.
Ouch. Winning in Oakland is almost a must before running that gauntlet; but the Raiders had the Chiefs number last season, and there's no reason to think an improved Raider team won't have it again next year.
Game 8: Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos
The Raiders have a bye in week eight, which is just about perfect. We should know what kind of team they are by then, whether they are contenders or pretenders, and they will be coming out of the bye with the perfect game on deck:
Home to the Denver Broncos.
The Raiders have owned the Broncos the last couple seasons, and last year's drubbings were notable. The Raiders hung 59 points on Denver in Denver early in the year, and you can bet the Broncos will be salivating for a chance at revenge.
Especially after the Raiders stomp them at home in the Monday Night opener. Denver will have four games in a row to make up for, and they'll be stomping mad at this point.
Tebow should be fully entrenched as a starter; or the waterboy by now, either way. At this point we should know whether he's the man or whether he needs more work; at tight end.
The Broncos need to shore up their run defense, because Darren McFadden owned them last season, and he should only be better this year.
Of course this is a best case scenario, but also realistic. I see best case Raiders are, at this point 7-1. Realistically, I see 6-2; and possibly 5-3. But no worse than that.
My obvious love for stadium naming rights notwithstanding, this time around wasn't quite as exciting; pretty run-of the mill portion of the schedule here, in which we play a usual suspect we despise - Houston - another to which I am completely indifferent - Cleveland - and two divisional opponents sandwiched by a bye and both games the Raiders should win.
The Raiders should be looking prime for a playoff spot at this point, barring some unforeseen disaster or some regression back to the 2006-2008 days.
This coaching staff, from Hue on down, will NOT let that happen. I fully anticipate heavy playoff talk on the boards at this point in the season.
Thanks for reading all; I'll have the third part out shortly.