Oakland Raiders 2011 Schedule, Act 3 : Road Raiders
Well, we've had a draft, a lockout lifted, a lockout reinstated and now it's back to speculating on when football may occur, if at all, this upcoming season.
Due to all the mess, I decided to wait to delve back into my 2011 schedule break down. I can assess teams a little more accurately now that the draft has happened, and certainly we have a better sense of what the Silver and Black may look like come kickoff.
Act III of the Raiders schedule sees them travelling quite a bit, with three of the four games away from Oakland Alameda Coliseum (not Overstock. Never Overstock), leading into the last part of the year.
They have one East Coast road game, in Miami, which never bode well for the Raiders. They also play in Minnesota on November 20th, and though all signs point to the Metrodome being ready for play, the warm-blooded Raiders may find themselves outside in Minnesota in late November.
At least the Vikings' roster will warm their cockles.
Here you have it: Act III, the Raider Road Warriors.
Week 10: Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
Heading into the 2010 season, the Chargers, despite little tangible success to show as a result, had beaten the Raiders in 13 straight games.
Yes, that's right. Thirteen straight times. From 2003-2010, the Chargers beat the Raiders an embarrassing 13 times in a row.
Not quite as embarrassing as when the Raiders either beat or tied the Charges (16-0-2) 18 times in a row in the late '60s and early '70s, but the majority of people who like to claim Charger dominance over the Raiders weren't even a gleam in the eye of their deadbeat dads at that point.
Nor as embarrassing as the fact that the Chargers may have dominated the Raiders for that time period, they didn't beat anyone of consequence and underachieved every season, usually flaming out early in the playoffs. So good on you, Bolts.
Raider players were fed up, so they came out hard in 2009. In the season opener, they didn't win on the scoreboard but asserted their will so forcefully more than five Chargers were carried off the field.
That continued last season as the Raiders beat the Chargers up again, but this time, it also translated into victories.
This season, the Raiders are getting the Chargers in Week 10. Norv Turner's teams tend to start very slowly and pick things up later on in the year, so the timing could've been better.
But Norv Turner's teams are also showing a pattern of regression, and the Chargers aren't scaring people anymore. I know their special teams coach is gone, but so is Ron Rivera, who was the general behind the NFL's No. 1 defense last season.
I fully expect the Chargers to continue regressing and end up in second, or even third place, in the AFC West. The Raiders, Broncos and Chiefs are all younger, and it's simply Rivers that keeps San Diego afloat recently. As they continue to ignore their offensive line, and the rest of the conference continues to improve their pass rush, the Chargers are going to feel it. I know the Chargers think they have a dominant line: newsflash guys. You don't. We ran roughshod all over you last season.
It'll be great when the Raiders sack Rivers 5-plus times and force at least one fumble. I love watching that guy throw tantrums.
Week 11: Oakland Raiders at Minnesota Vikings
According to www.myfox9.com, the Metrodome roof should be repaired and the monolithic eyesore ready to rock by the start of the 2011 season.
Which means that, barring another epic collapse of the roof or other problem with the integrity of the building, the Raiders will be indoors during what could've potentially been a very cold November 20th trip to Minneapolis.
Dodged yet another bullet. Let's recap:
The Raiders play eight games against cold weather teams (I didn't count Denver because, well, it's a split):
Of those games, they play five of them at home, which means no cold weather.
Of the three they play on the road, they play one in September and the other in a dome.
So, of all the potential November-December-January road games to cold weather climates, the Raiders have exactly one game to deal with: at Green Bay on December 11th. Visiting the defending champions at Lambeau in December? Yeah, that's enough to deal with.
With Minnesota rebuilding, a rookie QB under center and a defense that will be picked apart by age, attrition and free agency, I feel comfortable discussing the Raiders cold weather schedule as it pertains to the Vikings game.
Though it's on the road and anything can happen in the NFL, short of one of the Metrodome's beams falling on D-Mac's legs or Hue Jackson's head I see the Raiders walking out of Minneapolis with bits of purple in their teeth and a W on the scoresheet.
Week 12 : Oakland Raiders vs. Chicago Bears
The Raiders reunite with old friend Jay Cutler in Oakland in December, a home game sandwiched in between four road games and a respite from the cold and wind in Chicago in December.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that by this time Cutler will have acclimated himself to Chicago even better this time around; he likes playing in Oakland, and he'll have something to prove after losing his last tilt against the Raiders when they were quarterbacked by JaPurple-Drank.
Ah well. Who cares? It's still Jay Cutler, he's still got the mentality of a four-year-old, and Oakland is still a better team than they have been in recent years.
The Bears' aging defense will be put to the test against the speed and agility of the Raiders' offensive weapons. Adding size and speed in Denarious Moore and Taiwan Jones to a lineup that already features Jacoby Ford, D-Mac, DHB, Louis Murphy and the fastest "fullback" in the NFL in Marcel Reece ensures the Raiders will at the very least be faster than most of their opponents. Much faster, for the most part.
The Bears vaunted defense is beginning to show signs of slowing down, though a healthy Urlacher really showed what he's capable of last season, even at an older and slower pace. Urlacher and Briggs are still two of the elite LB's in the NFL, but their line and secondary have weakened in recent seasons.
I don't think the Bears defense will be able to hang with the team speed of the Raiders, and I do think that the horses up front in Seymour, TK, Houston, Sho-Nasty, Scott, Wimbley and the like will make life difficult for rookie Gabe Carimi and Cutler. Which means Cutler will throw more passes to Stanford Routt than to Johnny Knox, which means the Raiders will give the Black Hole plenty to cheer about.
Oh and check out the pic: the only QB with more frequent and animated idiotic facial expressions is Rivers. The AFC West really had the market on dumb, ridiculous QB expressions cornered when Cutler was in Denver.
Week 13 : Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins
The Raiders, though they showed vast improvement last season, still were the only team in NFL history to go undefeated in their division—6-0 in the AFC West—and miss the playoffs.
They accomplished this by going a miserable 2-8 outside the division, finished 8-8 and watching a lesser Kansas City team represent the AFC West very poorly in a blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the wild-card round.
The Raiders usually struggle on the East Coast in early games, but that doesn't explain why a terrible Miami team was able to handle the Raiders easily in Oakland. No East Coast trip or early start as an excuse. Simply a poor performance on both sides of the ball.
Chad Henne is not a good NFL quarterback, but you wouldn't have known that when he played Oakland last season. He fairly looked like Dan Marino as he led the Dolphins on a few different scoring drives, and the Raiders regressed to their run defense of the previous seven seasons and let Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown take turns ramming the ball down their throats.
In short, it was a poor performance by a team who still had not learned to win, and did not realize how important the game ultimately would prove to be. Win this one, or the Arizona game, and the playoffs are within reach. But nope, couldn't get it done against out of division opponents who they should have beat.
I fully expect the Raiders to be upset, angry and ready for revenge when they travel to Miami in December. An added bonus is that it's Miami in December and not September, so the heat and humidity should be bearable and not oppressive.
The Raider defense, on the other hand, I expect to be fully unbearable and oppressive. I expect Henne, if he's still playing—highly doubtful—to be running for his life and possibly carted off the field. I expect whoever Miami decides to use at running back to gain less than four YPC. I expect the Raiders to want and will their way to victory in this one.
Although my overviews have the Raiders basically winning all four of these games, we all know that won't happen. 3-1 is possible; 2-2 more likely.
The Chargers and Bears should be formidable, and I never know what to expect with the Dolphins. No matter how good or bad they are, we always seem to struggle with them. They're just a team like that for us, like Cleveland as well. How awesome is it that we play them both this season?
Regardless, through the first 12 games I realistically see the Raiders sitting at 8-4. I expect us to lose any four of these six games—or to go 2-4 in them—whichever you prefer: Patriots, Jets, Chargers, Bears, Texans, Chiefs.
I expect to beat the Broncos x2, the Bills, the Vikings, the Dolphins, the Browns and two of the above mentioned games.
8-4 at this point would mean playoff talk, which is the logical next step for a team that vastly improved next season, addressed their needs in the draft, and has money to spend on free agents when and if it ever happens.
Things are looking up in Oakland, and through three quarters of the season, we in the Nation should have plenty to be excited about come January.
Thanks as always for reading; hope you enjoyed it!