Early portions of the Raiders’ last season Oakland won’t actually be played in Oakland. The season’s first half is dominated by a brutal road stretch that runs from Weeks 3-8, with a home game against the Bears given to London followed by a bye.
The season’s first half features five road games (counting the London affair) in seven contest, four playoff teams, Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau and a tough Vikings team in Minneapolis.
That’s just brutal. There’s no way around it.
A midseason run of three straight home games leads to another stretch of four road games over their final six, making it tough to overcome a brutal start to the season. The Raiders are still in rebuild mode even after an expensive offseason full of signings and the Antonio Brown trade, but this schedule sure makes it tough to improve results this season.
Biggest must-watch game
This one takes place across the Atlantic, most likely because the Raiders didn’t want it in Oakland. The sight of Khalil Mack sacking Derek Carr at Oakland Coliseum might’ve been too much for the home team to take after a controversial 2018 trade that sent Mack to Chicago for a significant draft capital not yet used.
Mack made eyes on Twitter at news of that Bears-Raiders date, coming on Oct. 6 at London’s Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium. He’ll circle it on the calendar for sure, and be ready for Jon Gruden and a Raiders team looking to get a win over an old friend they didn’t want to pay.
You won’t have to wake up super early for this one, as is required for some London games. It kicks off at 10 a.m. PT, so fans can see an important clash the Raiders want to win but shipped abroad just in case they don’t.
It will also mark the team’s fifth international home game in six years, and surely the last for some time. The Raiders won’t be giving home games away when they’re scheduled to move to Las Vegas in 2020.
Where the schedule makers hosed them
The early five-game stretch on the road might be the toughest – undoubtedly the longest – in my 12 seasons covering the NFL. All of their trips are at least two time zones away, including one in the United Kingdom. The competition’s are fierce, putting a premium on as many games as they can steal in two games to start the year. One problem there: The Kansas City Chiefs come to town in Week 2, meaning there’s a real chance the Raiders start the 2019 season in a big hole.
Where the schedule makers helped them
This one’s tough to find. The Raiders have a three-game home series just after midseason, with two against beatable teams. The L.A. Chargers sandwich games against Cincinnati and Detroit, but the good times don’t last the team finishes with four of six on the road.
What the prime-time schedule tells us
That Raiders stunk last season. Teams that struggle the year before generally don’t get a lot of high-profile time slots, so it’s no shock the Raiders play two night games all season and one is a Thursday night affair everybody gets. Even the Monday Night Football game comes as the second half of a double header, meaning most of the East Coast will be in bed when that game kicks off.
Bye week significance
Teams always get a bye after playing in England. This year is no exception. The Raiders will hope to lick wounds after playing Kansas City, then road games at Minnesota and Indianapolis before playing Chicago in London. They must come out of the bye healthy and ready to feast on a rare weak portion of the schedule.
We could single out Vontaze Burfict playing Cincinnati or Brandon Marshall going up against Denver twice next year, but there’s a great chance Jon Gruden holds up the 2019 slate and encourages players to stick it to schedule makers who put them in a bad spot.
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Raiders vs. NFL schedule makers is certainly sexier.
The Raiders didn’t have a 2019 stadium lined up until well past the NFL’s preference. Commissioner Roger Goodell wanted an answer for where the Raiders would play in early February to give schedule makers time to set 2019 up, but an Oakland Coliseum agreement came far later and wasn’t formally approved until the owners meetings. Conspiracy theorists will have fun with that one to be sure, as the team’s last season in Oakland will be defined by how Gruden’s Raiders handle a brutal 2018 slate.