The Las Vegas Raiders are looking to improve upon an 8-8 regular season in Jon Gruden's fourth year as head coach.
The Silver and Black showed promise last year by starting 6-3 and defeating the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs.
However, the Raiders—and their defense in particular—struggled down the stretch en route to a .500 finish. All seven of their final opponents scored 26 or more points.
Las Vegas has gotten better each season under Gruden, moving from 4-12 to 7-9 and then 8-8. The team will hope to finally achieve a winning season in this era as the league shifts to a 17-game regular-season schedule.
The Raiders made some moves this offseason to accomplish that goal. In free agency, they added edge-rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, running back Kenyan Drake, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and wide receiver John Brown, among others.
In the draft, Las Vegas selected Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and TCU safety Trevor Moehrig alongside five others.
Now Vegas looks ahead to the season.
That 2021 slate was released Wednesday. Here's a look at the Raiders' full schedule, including dates, times and television information. You can also find some general analysis and notes on pivotal matchups below.
On paper, the Raiders' schedule isn't too daunting.
Las Vegas has matchups against all four teams in the NFC East, which saw a 7-9 Washington Football Team win the division crown last year. Granted, that division can improve, but it doesn't look like a powerhouse quartet of teams at the moment.
The Raiders' extra 17th game is a home matchup against the Chicago Bears, who went 8-8 last year and lost a key defensive player in cornerback Kyle Fuller.
But second place in the AFC West, behind likely winners and 2020 conference champion Chiefs, is up for grabs. Las Vegas finished ahead of the 7-9 Denver Broncos and 7-9 Los Angeles Chargers last year.
Overall, the schedule has its challenges, but there's a realistic path for Las Vegas to finish with a winning record.
Naturally, the pair of games against the rival Chiefs will be pivotal, especially if the Raiders find themselves in contention for the division crown.
Kansas City lost a pair of bookend offensive tackles in Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, but it still has the best quarterback in football in Patrick Mahomes and two star playmakers in tight end Travis Kelce and wideout Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs also reloaded their offensive line anyway, notably adding Orlando Brown, Joe Thuney and Kyle Long in the offseason.
Games against the other two divisional opponents will be ones to watch. The Broncos added Fuller, rookie Patrick Surtain II and Ronald Darby to their secondary and should return edge-rusher Von Miller from a preseason injury that sidelined him for all of 2020. The Chargers are looking to shine under first-year head coach Brandon Staley, who has budding superstar Justin Herbert calling the shots behind center.
Otherwise, Las Vegas has a handful of Eastern Time Zone games, a few of which are against potentially difficult opponents. The 11-5 Browns should return wideout Odell Beckham Jr. from injury, and the 11-5 Indianapolis Colts are looking to make the next step under new quarterback Carson Wentz.
The New York Giants finished 6-10 last season, but they went on a spending spree in signing wideout Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree' Jackson. The 12-4 Steelers lost numerous pieces on defense but still have superstar T.J. Watt in their ranks.