The Raiders' 2017 schedule will be a good litmus test for how much they have improved from their breakout 2016 regular season. Getting back to the playoffs won't be easy; Oakland's opponents carry over a combined .564 winning percentage from last season, including their foes in the stacked AFC West and NFC East.
From wire to wire, there's no breathing room or real gimme games for Oakland in 2017. One of the NFL's most talented young teams will need to grow up faster, but with Derek Carr leading the way, that certainly can happen by the Bay.
Raiders schedule 2017
Week 1: at Titans (Sunday, Sept. 10, 1 p.m ET, CBS)
Week 2: vs. Jets (Sunday, Sept. 17, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)
Week 3: at Redskins (Sunday, Sept. 24, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
The Raiders have a pretty good warmup here before the nitty-gritty of their schedule. They should be favored to take down three non-playoff teams, including a chance to showcase themselves early on "SNF" in Washington. The potential 3-0 start will help for later.
Week 4: at Broncos (Sunday, Oct. 1, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)
Week 5: vs. Ravens (Sunday, Oct. 8, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)
Week 6: vs. Chargers (Sunday, Oct. 15. 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)
Week 7: vs. Chiefs (Thursday, Oct. 19, 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS)
Week 8: at Bills (Sunday, Oct. 29, 1 p.m. ET, CBS)
This month isn't too bad for Oakland, either, especially that meat at home and getting Kansas City on a short week. Denver and Buffalo, however, form a sandwich of difficult road games.
Week 9: at Dolphins (Sunday, Nov. 5, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Week 10: BYE (Nov. 12)
Week 11: vs. Patriots in Mexico City (Sunday, Nov. 19, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)
Week 12: vs. Broncos (Sunday, Nov. 26, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)
That "SNF" matchup in Miami will set the tone for the Raiders' second half. With what's coming after, it's almost a must-win for Oakland if it is to have designs of winning the division. At least the game against defending Super Bowl champion New England is after the bye.
Week 13: vs. Giants (Sunday, Dec. 3, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox)
Week 14: at Chiefs (Sunday, Dec. 10, 1 p.m. ET, CBS)
Week 15: vs. Cowboys (Sunday, Dec. 17, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Week 16: at Eagles (Monday, Dec. 25, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Week 17: at Chargers (Sunday, Dec. 31, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)
This is pretty bad for the Raiders, almost like the NFL piling on their relocation to Las Vegas with three tough road games in the final four. The early part of December is bad enough against those playoff teams, but then Oakland also needs to play on Christmas night and finish on a short week. That can knock them out of first place again.
Raiders schedule 2017, record prediction: 10-6
Oakland took advantage of an improved roster and weakened schedule to finish 12-4 last season, good for an AFC wild-card berth that ended the Raiders' 14-year playoff drought. Carr and the offense will keep driving this team into the postseason mix, even if the defense it's desperately trying to upgrade around Khalil Mack should face similar struggles. This record should be sufficient to make the Raiders at least the No. 6 seed in the conference and give them a chance to make more playoff noise with a healthy Carr.