The 2019 NFL schedule release is right around the corner, and we already know a few things about the Raiders' path to the playoffs.
First of all, it won't be easy.
With games against NFC North and AFC South teams, the Raiders will have to conquer two of the NFL's best divisions while also facing the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos twice as usual.
After going 4-12 a season ago, it seems brutal for the Silver and Black to have such a difficult schedule, and yet, according to multiple projections, the Raiders will have one of, if not the most difficult schedule in 2019.
Here's ESPN writer Mike Clay's projection:
Well, that's not great. But it's just one projection, right?
Unfortunately, Warren Sharp paints a similarly bleak picture for Jon Gruden's team.
Using win totals we can forecast 2019 Strength of Schedule.
Patriots, Jets & Eagles have the 3 easiest schedules based on current win totals.
Texans, Broncos & Raiders have the 3 hardest schedules.
Full list ▼ You can also filter by team & view home/away strength of opponent. pic.twitter.com/j94gsBQCeg— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) April 1, 2019
It seems a little unfair that the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, while the Raiders must run the gauntlet in order to return to the playoffs. But I guess that's the reward for playing in the AFC East.
The Raiders made substantial improvements to their offense in free agency and with the trade of Antonio Brown, but they'll need to nail what could be a franchise-defining draft if they plan on making a leap in Year 2 under Gruden.