Not much went right for Dennis Allen in his first season as Oakland's head coach. The roster went through an overhaul during the offseason, so what are the expectations this fall? Here's our look at the Raiders' 2013 NFL schedule.
Oakland Raiders 2013 Schedule:
Week 1: at Indianapolis
Week 2: Jacksonville
Week 3: at Denver (Mon.)
Week 4: Washington
Week 5: San Diego
Week 6: at Kansas City
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Pittsburgh
Week 9: Philadelphia
Week 10: at New York Giants
Week 11: at Houston
Week 12: Tennessee
Week 13: at Dallas (Thurs.)
Week 14: at New York Jets
Week 15: Kansas City
Week 16: at San Diego
Week 17: Denver
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Out of the Gate: Oakland opens the season in Indianapolis before coming home to host Jacksonville. The loser of that game becomes the early frontrunner for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. After the Jaguars, the Raiders go to Denver for a Monday night game before closing out the first month at home against Washington. Outside of the Broncos, the Raiders' opening slate doesn't look too daunting. A win or two in September doesn't appear to be that far-fetched of an outcome.
Toughest Stretch: Following their bye in Week 7, the Raiders will play the Steelers and Eagles at home before facing the Giants and Texans on the road in back-to-back weeks. A home game against Tennessee precedes a Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, which is followed by an even longer road trip to the Big Apple to play the Jets in Week 14. Pittsburgh is still smarting from last season's shocking 34-31 loss in Oakland and would like nothing more than to get a little payback this season. Neither the Eagles or Titans made the playoffs in 2012, but both finished with better records than the Silver and Black. The trip to Houston won't be easy and it's hard enough to make one cross-country trip to the east coast, let alone two in a little more than a month. At least the Raiders get a week off before they embark on this seven-week stretch.
Easiest Stretch: With the exception of the Week 2 matchup with Jacksonville and probably a few other home games, Oakland figures to be the underdog most weeks. To put it another way, the Jaguars and the Chiefs are the only teams the Raiders play that won fewer games than they did last season. That said, Oakland's slate does include one three-game span featuring teams that posted losing records in 2012. Unfortunately for the Raiders, two of these games are on the road (at NYJ, at SD) and two of them are divisional matchups. Let's face it, "easy" games are hard to find for a team that went 4-12 last season.
Circle The Calendar: Even with the Thanksgiving Day date with the Cowboys, the most important game on the Raiders' schedule this season may be their Week 2 matchup with the Jaguars. Neither team is expected to be a playoff contender, so it's not like this is a battle of heavyweights. Still, this game is important if for no other reason because of the potential draft implications it carries. Barring unforeseen turnarounds from either or both teams, Oakland and Jacksonville are expected to be among the worst teams in the league, meaning they will once again pick high in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. So the winner of this Week 2 game may actually end up being a loser in the end, as this one game alone could end up determining who picks first and who picks second next April.
Divisional Notes: Oakland's AFC West games are bunched together in two segments of its schedule. The first divisional game is a Monday night date in Denver in Week 3, followed by San Diego (home) and Kansas City (away) back-to-back prior to the Raiders' Week 7 bye. Then it's no more divisional contests until the final three weeks of the season. Home games with the Chiefs and Broncos sandwiched by a short trip south to the play the Chargers means the Raiders won't have to travel very far to finish their season.
Playoff Push: Barring one of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history, the Raiders don't figure to be in the playoff hunt by the time December rolls around. Oakland will rack up a lot of frequent-flyer miles to open the final month, with back-to-back road trips to Dallas and New York to face the Jets on tap. At least the game with the Cowboys is on a Thursday, which helps break up the travel some. After that, however, the Raiders will finish their season in California with three straight games against divisional foes Kansas City (home), San Diego (away) and Denver (home). The long road trips only add to the difficulty of its December slate, but it's not unreasonable for Oakland to finish the season with a win or two, especially if the Broncos have their playoff positioning locked in before Week 17.
Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Is this the season Darren McFadden finally stays healthy throughout? His track record screams otherwise, but if he’s still carrying the ball come fantasy playoffs time that high draft pick spent on him may pay off. The Jets and the Chiefs finished 26th and 27th, respectively, in rushing defense last season. The Chargers (sixth) were considerably better in this category, but that game isn’t until championship week.
2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis: