Oakland Raiders 2011: Why a Fast Start Is a Must

Bill HintonCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2011

Oakland Raiders 2011: Why a Fast Start Is a Must

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    The schedule maker was fairly kind to the Raiders when it came to the first half of their season. The second half is another thing entirely.

    We'll take a look at why getting off to a fast start is very important this year for the Raiders and why it could mean the difference in whether they are playoff team in 2011.

    So follow along and see if you agree where I'm coming from on this. As always, your comments and opinions are greatly valued!

Two Winnable Road Games to Kick Things off

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    The Oakland Raiders open up the 2011 season with back-to-back road games. This usually would be a concern, but actually may be a blessing.

    The Raiders owned the Broncos last year and while I'm certain John Fox will help in getting the Broncos back toward respectability, it won't happen this soon.

    The lockout will most certainly set the Broncos back a bit, and I expect this to be an easy win for the Raiders.

    The Raiders then go to Buffalo to face the improving Bills.

    Once again, this is favorable as it comes early in the season and the threat of bad weather won't be a factor.

    The Bills will fight hard, but their run defense is pretty bad and the Raiders, in case you hadn't noticed, can run the ball a bit! Can you say 2-0, with two straight road wins?

Two East Coast Heavyweights Come Calling

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    Weeks 3 and 4 feature home games with two of the best teams in the AFC, the Jets and the Patriots.

    I expect New England to be good again, but I'm not so sold on the Jets. The Jets have a lot of key free agents, so I'm not even sure what the actual make up of their team might be, as of yet.

    That being said, I think most Raiders fans would be fairly happy with a split and a 3-1 start.

Weeks 5-9: Time to Pour It On!

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    So okay, here we go. Assuming the Raiders have gotten off to the 3-1 start I expect, this will be an extremely important stretch to the season.

    After going to Houston in Week 5, the Raiders next four weeks go like this.

    Cleveland at home, Kansas City at home, bye week, Denver at home.

    The Raiders must come out of here with a record of no worse than 6-2 if the playoffs are to be a possibility, and we'll look at why going forward.

Weeks 10-14: Now It Gets a Little Tougher

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    So how's this for a tough little stretch?

    Five games, four of which are on the road, including the Super Bowl champs, the NFC runner-up, a Chargers team with revenge on their mind and two other teams capable of running it down your throat on a good day.

    The Raiders may not be favored in any one of these games!

    That's why the fast start is a must.

    If the Raiders manage to win any two of these games, let's say Chicago at home and at Minnesota, they would stand at 8-5 heading into the final three weeks.

Weeks 15-17: Time to Finish Strong

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    If the Raiders get off to a fast start and survive a tough middle of the season, they are now in a position to win the division if they can finish strong.

    A home game against Detroit, everyone's trendy sleeper, looks winnable. Matthew Stafford will be long out for the season by then, right?

    Then at Kansas City and home to the Chargers.

    I'm going to say one of these teams won't be in the race and I think that's the Chiefs.

    I think a first-place schedule gets the best of them this year and that the division will be decided when the Raiders go into Kansas City and win for the umpteenth year in a row. Okay, maybe not umpteenth, but it has been since 2006, when the Chiefs last defended their home field!

    Week 17, the 10-5 Oakland Raiders get to rest their starters in a meaningless game with the Chargers.

    This could be how the Raiders finish if they don't blow the start!