Oakland Raiders 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystApril 18, 2012

Oakland Raiders 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

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    The Oakland Raiders received two prime-time games at home when the NFL schedules were announced.

    The first prime-time game is the opener against San Diego, the second of two Monday Night Football games to open the season. The second prime-time game is against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Week 14.

    Three home games from Week 13 to 15 should keep the Raiders in the playoff hunt, but back-to-back road games in Carolina and San Diego to close the season is tough. 

    The schedule includes four trips to the east coast, but just one game in December in a cold-weather city. 

    Difficult road games include Atlanta after the bye week, Baltimore and Carson Palmer's return to Cincinnati.

Week 1: Chargers vs Raiders

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    7:15 p.m. PT, ESPN

    The Raiders split the series in 2011, winning by a touchdown in Week 10 in San Diego and losing by 12 with the season on the line at home in the finale. 

    In the late game on a weeknight, the Raiders get an opportunity to make a statement that they should be in the playoff conversation.

    Denarius Moore was a problem for the San Diego secondary in 2011 because Quentin Jammer couldn't handle him. Moore racked up 224 yards through the air and two touchdowns versus the Chargers last season.

    In the first matchup, Darrius Heyward-Bey was held without a catch, but in the finale Antoine Cason had trouble with Darrius Heyward-Bey as he exploded for 130 yards and a touchdown.

    Despite good numbers through the air, the Raiders win against San Diego was largely due to the Raiders ability to pressure Philip Rivers and the dominate running game. The Raiders were able to do neither against the Chargers in the finale and lost.

    The Raiders were very close to signing Jared Gaither to a contract last offseason. It was to the point that Gaither had to do no more than pass a physical. He failed that physical and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    After 10 games as a backup with the Chiefs, he was released and signed with the Chargers. Gaither salvaged the Chargers season and started the final five games at left tackle.

    Matt Shaughnessy can't seem to stay healthy, but the Raiders will handle him with kid gloves during training camp in hopes he will be ready to go for the season opener and beyond.

    Pressuring Rivers is vitally important and it all starts on the blind side. Shaughnessy is capable of dominating a game, but he'll need to beat up on a good left tackle in Gaither to do it.

    Largely due to Darren McFadden's injury history, he has faced the Chargers just one time as a starter, a 28-13 Raiders victory in Week 13 of 2010. 

    McFadden is one of the most explosive offensive weapons in the league and the Raiders' best offensive player. The emergence of the passing game in Oakland will only help McFadden find holes.

    The Chargers have a veteran front seven that is smart, but lacks the perimeter speed to keep up with the outside zone they will see from the Raiders.

    PREDICTION: Chargers 20, Raiders 27

Week 2: Raiders vs Dolphins

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    1:15 p.m. PT, CBS

    The Raiders travel across the country to Miami on a short week, but get the benefit of the late start. It was in Miami that the 2011 Raiders season spiraled down the drain.

    The Raiders were leading the AFC West when Rolando McClain was arrested on gun charges and allowed to play the following week in Miami. The team came out flat, losing 14-34 and allowing Reggie Bush to rush for 100 yards.

    The Raiders would manage only one more win, a 16-13 win at home against Kansas City which required a blocked kick in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter and a game-winning overtime field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.

    It's tough to blame the loss entirely on McClain because the Raiders couldn't run the ball. Michael Bush managed just 18 yards on 10 carries.

    The Raiders were also missing Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore due to injury and the leading receivers were Chaz Schilens and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, neither of which will be Raiders in 2012.

    Provided the Raiders' injury-prone skill players make it though training camp and the opener intact, the Dolphins will face a very different offense in 2012.

    I'd imagine the Raiders are ready for some redemption in Miami and it's not yet known if the Dolphins will be breaking in a rookie quarterback.

    Cameron Wake didn't get to Carson Palmer, but he was getting pressure on him all game. Jared Veldheer limited Wake, but was only able to slow him down. 

    The running game and playing with a lead could help Veldheer, but if he's going to take the next step and become an elite left tackle he needs to start dominating in the passing game. Putting up a wall on the elite rushers in the league will earn Veldheer a lot of credibility around the league. 

    PREDICTION: Raiders 28, Dolphins 13

Week 3: Steelers vs Raiders

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    1:15 p.m. PT, CBS

    The Steelers' last meeting with the Raiders resulted in a 35-3 thrashing of the Silver and Black in Pittsburgh in 2010. The Steelers haven't been to Oakland since 2006 when the Raiders returned two interceptions for touchdowns, including one for 100 yards by Chris Carr and won 20-13.

    This is the Raiders' first big test of the season. The Steelers defense can shutdown an offense and the Raiders might have to win the game with their defense like they did in 2006.

    It might come down to if the Raiders can cover Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and pressure Ben Roethlisberger.

    Rashard Mendenhall is coming off an ACL injury and may not be full strength, so the Raiders could key on the pass.

    The fastest way to the quarterback is right up the middle. This is the type of game where Richard Seymour needs to dominate up the middle and get in the face of Roethlisberger. Not punch his face, like Seymour once did, but make Roethlisberger move out of the pocket and give the secondary a chance.

    Seymour remains the highest-paid defensive player on the team and he needs to dominate this game to give the Raiders a chance.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 24, Raiders 20

Week 4: Raiders vs Broncos

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    1:05 p.m. PT, CBS

    Tebow Time has been replaced by Manning Mania in Denver. The Raiders will travel there in Week 4.

    Provided Manning, if healthy, will be a challenge for the Raider defense. Blitzing an elite passer can be dangerous and Manning will have three weeks worth of tape to examine Dennis Allen's defense. 

    The offense in Denver will undoubtedly be significantly improved over the 2011 version, but it's the Bronco defense that might have trouble with the Raiders. 

    Darren McFadden rushed for 150 yards in his only game against the Broncos in 2011. Michael Bush had 96 yards in the second.

    Tim Tebow and Willis McGahee really caused issues for Chuck Bresnahan's defense in 2011, but Jason Tarver takes over that group and the Broncos aren't likely to be running a lot of read-option plays with Manning.

    It's tough enough playing in Denver and divisional games can always go either way, but the Broncos will have an advantage with some intimate knowledge of Dennis Allen.

    PREDICTION: Raiders 24, Broncos 27

Week 5: Bye

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    After four tough games to start the season, the Raiders will have a week to rest up. 

    It's one of the earlier bye weeks, but it comes at a good time with a tough east coast trip in Week 5.

    The bye week can either be used as a week to regroup from a tough start or to build upon what worked over the first four weeks.

    If the Raiders start slow, the bye week and getting ready for the Falcons in Week 5 could prove to be a springboard for a successful season or a trouncing pad for a lost one.

Week 6: Raiders vs Falcons

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    10:00 a.m. PT, CBS

    The Raiders only play the Falcons once every few years during the regular season. This is a big one for the Raiders coming off the bye week.

    It's an early game, the Raiders' first such game of the season. The Raiders were 3-2 in early games in 2011, but 0-2 when traveling to the east coast. 

    The bye week gives the Raiders the opportunity to get ready for the trip and hopefully the extra time does them well.

    The Falcons are a well-rounded playoff-caliber team that the Raiders can use as a measuring stick for their season.

    That measuring stick might be best used on defense, as the Raiders will try to cover Roddy White and Julio Jones, limit Michael Turner and pressure Matt Ryan.

    The playoffs are possible in 2012, but the Raiders need to figure out how to win on the east coast and against playoff-caliber teams like the Falcons.

    Prediction: Raiders 20, Falcons 19

Week 7: Jaguars vs Raiders

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    1:15 p.m. PT, CBS

    After dropping their first ever game against the Raiders in September of 1996, the Jaguars have reeled off four straight wins against the Raiders.

    The Raiders play host to the Jaguars for the first time since 2005.

    A new coaching staff in Jacksonville will be desperately trying to get Blaine Gabbert to look like an NFL quarterback and should be adding a receiver or two to try and help him. The defense has been solid for the Jaguars and Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the best backs in the league.

    If the Raiders haven't been tested on the ground through five games, they will be tested by Jones-Drew and the Jaguars running game. 

    The Raiders linebackers need to get Jones-Drew on the ground on first contact and the defense line needs to do their part in bottling up the running lanes.

    If the Raiders can stop the Jaguars' running game and put up a few points, the Raiders should be able to take care of the Jaguars at home.

    PREDICTION: Jaguars 17, Raiders 23

Week 8: Raiders vs Chiefs

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    1:05 p.m. PT, CBS

    The Chiefs and the Raiders both have an elite running back that completely change the defensive game plan. Jamaal Charles has the ability to take over games like Darren McFadden.

    The Chiefs also added right tackle Eric Winston in free agency and running back Peyton Hillis, who should keep Charles fresh. 

    Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are very good players at each level of the Chiefs defense and Stanford Routt is a good fit with Brandon Flowers in the man defense.

    Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston are quality receivers, but the Chiefs may continue to be limited by quarterback Matt Cassel

    The Chiefs aren't pretenders if the team can stay healthy and Cassel can produce like he did in 2010 or better. Any worse and the Chiefs upside is limited and the talent they have on defense wasted. 

    These are the types of games where the new defensive scheme can serve the Raiders well. Cassel is a good, but not great quarterback, and he susceptible to pressure. Blitz Cassel and see if he can beat it.

    One of the most difficult road venues in the NFL is Arrowhead Stadium and I expect the division to be a close race and the teams to trade blows.

    PREDICTION: Raiders 17, Chiefs 24

Week 9: Buccaneers vs Raiders

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    1:05 p.m. PT, FOX

    What happened to the Buccaneers last season? What looked like a promising young team in 2010 came back to earth and won just four games in 2011.

    Fantasy football appears to be the culprit of the hype and it centered on Josh Freeman, Mike Williams and LaGarrette Blount.

    The Bucs still have a lot of roster shaping to do and to add good talent via the draft, but the Raiders will be able to handle them at home.

    If there was a game where the Raider offense was going to explode, it might be this one, as the Bucs ranked 30th in the league in total defense in 2011. 

    PREDICTION: Bucs 13, Raiders 30

Week 10: Raiders vs Ravens

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    10:00 a.m. PT, CBS

    The most difficult road test of the season will be in Week 10 against the Ravens. The Raiders are 1-7 against the Ravens all-time, with the lone victory coming in December of 2003. 

    The Ravens defense is aging, but for what they have lost in athletic ability they have gained in football intelligence.

    With enough offensive talent to scare even the best defenses, the Raiders have a chance if they can limit Ray Rice on the ground and pressure Joe Flacco. 

    By this point in the season the Raider Nation should know if the Raiders are contenders or pretenders, but it might not matter in this case.

    PREDICTION: Raiders 17, Ravens 23

Week 11: Saints vs Raiders

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    1:05 p.m. PT, FOX

    Sean Payton has been suspended for the season for his role in the Saints bounty scandal, but his team is still very good. Drew Brees is still the quarterback and by Week 11 Joe Vitt will have taken over as interim head coach after serving his suspension.

    The Saints have a lot of firepower on offense with Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles and Brees. It's yet another test of the Raiders' revamped defense.

    Over the past few seasons the Raiders have used their preseason game with the Saints to measure their playoff hopes and the Saints always look more polished.

    Don't rule out a shootout in Oakland, with the Raiders offense and the Saints offense trading scores back and forth.

    PREDICTION: Raiders 28, Saints 31

Week 12: Raiders vs Bengals

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    10:00 a.m. PT, CBS

    Carson Palmer returns to Cincinnati and the Raiders square off against another 2011 playoff team on the road.

    Thanks to the trade that sent Palmer to Oakland, the Bengals are in a position to add two quality players in the upcoming NFL draft.

    Andy Dalton and A.J. Green should only continue to improve, but the Bengals lack any semblance of a ground game. 

    It's the very solid Bengals defense which includes ex-Raider Thomas Howard that the Raiders should be concerned with in this game. 

    The two teams are very evenly matched, but if the Raiders are going to go to the playoffs, they need to pull out a tough win at some point on their schedule.

    PREDICTION: Raiders 16, Bengals 14

Week 13: Browns vs Raiders

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    1:15 p.m. PT, CBS

    The Raiders barely secured a victory against the Browns in 2011. With a 24-7 lead headed into the fourth quarter, the Raiders gave up 10 fourth-quarter points to make it close.

    A season-ending clavicle injury for starting quarterback Jason Campbell allowed the Browns to get back into the game. The blockbuster trade for Carson Palmer would be executed hours later and change the course of the franchise.

    The Browns are still a few pieces away from being a good NFL team, but it's the Browns defense that the Raiders need to worry about. Joe Haden is an elite cornerback no one talks about and D'Qwell Jackson is a very good middle linebacker.

    The Raiders should be able to get another win at home against the Browns in 2012.

    PREDICTION: Browns 16, Raiders 24

Week 14: Broncos vs Raiders

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    5:20 p.m. PT, NFL

    By the time the second matchup with Peyton Manning rolls around, the playoff hunt will be in full swing. The Raiders will also be much more familiar with Manning and the new Broncos offense with 12 weeks of tape to watch.

    Eric Decker is poised for a big year with Manning as his quarterback and the Raiders hope to counter with a healthy Ron Bartell.

    The cornerback vs. receiver matchups could end up being key to the beating Manning and the Raiders need to figure out a way to limit the receivers and apply pressure to Manning to keep the cornerbacks from getting abused by Manning.

    If Manning is healthy, he will be difficult to stop, but it's not as if Manning hasn't lost a few games before and the Bronco defense is extremely suspect against the run. 

    The Raiders will figure out a way to win this one at home and keep their playoff hopes alive.

    PREDICTION: Broncos 23, Raiders 27

Week 15: Chiefs vs Raiders

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    1:15 p.m. PT, CBS

    The Raiders were shut out last season at home against the Chiefs. Don't expect that to happen again, as the Raiders won't be starting Kyle Boller and rolling Carson Palmer on three days practice.

    This is the Raiders' final home game of the season and with two road games coming up, the Raiders will feel the pressure to win this one. 

    The Raiders' linebacker play really needs to step up this season. I'll be looking at how Aaron Curry, Rolando McClain and company handle a ground game like the Chiefs and if they can also help apply pressure to Matt Cassel. 

    Tyvon Branch also must make his presence felt and the final home game of the season would be a good time for him to take over a game.

    Dennis Allen knows they can't roll the dice on two road games to end the year and need to take advantage of the home crowd.

    PREDICTION: Chiefs 10, Raiders 17

Week 16: Raiders vs Panthers

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    1:15 p.m. PT, CBS

    The Raiders hope they have something half as good as Cam Newton in Terrelle Pryor. Stopping Newton will be up to Jason Tarver's defense and Pryor can help by mimicking Newton in practice.

    The Panthers and the Raiders were surprisingly evenly ranked last season as both teams had problems on defense, but had high-powered offenses that kept them in games.

    It's a road game, in Charlotte, in December; the better defense probably wins this game, but the offenses will be the focus.

    The Raiders not only have to stop Newton, but also the Panthers' ground game. 

    It should be one of the more entertaining games on the schedule and playoffs could be on the line.

    PREDICTION: Raiders 27, Panthers 24 (OT)

Week 17: Raiders vs Chargers

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    1:15 p.m. PT, CBS

    The Raiders start and finish the season against San Diego and a lot can change in 15 weeks.

    In 2012, like 2011, the Raiders could be playing for the division crown and the right to go to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 in the finale. 

    It is no secret that the Raiders' second home is in San Diego, where the Raider Nation fills the stadium with black jerseys.

    Eliminating the home-field advantage from the equation in this game is important and gives the Raiders a better chance at success against Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews and company. 

    If the division is on the line, this is one heck of a final game of the season and it could go either way.

    PREDICTION: Raiders 16, Chargers 19


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    Will the Raiders make the playoffs? That's the biggest question.

    My schedule analysis has the Raiders winning 10 games, which is realistic. Nine games is my target, but schedules and injuries can always change things.

    When it comes to making predictions like this so early, there is always going to be a rather large margin of error.

    The Raiders roster is still likely to change a lot between now and the start of the season, as will many of the teams the Raiders will face in 2012.

    How many times has strength of schedule been used only for it to be totally inaccurate a few weeks into the season?

    Overall, the Raiders have some work to do, but it will be nice to finally get Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden on the field together, watch the continued development of the receivers and see what the new regime is going to do with the defensive scheme.

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