The Raiders got screwed.
That’s the easiest conclusion to make following Wednesday evening’s NFL schedule release, where Oakland was granted a brutal start to their season.
The sentiment is rooted in reality, considering the Raiders play their first two games at Oakland Coliseum but don’t return home until Nov. 3.
They play five straight games away from home over a stretch that plays out this way:
Week 3: at Minnesota
Week 4: at Indianapolis
Week 5: vs. Chicago (in London)
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: at Green Bay
Week 8: at Houston
That daunting stretch is what the Raiders are up against early next season. Here are some reasons why it played out this way, after talking to those with knowledge of a situation that has some Raiders -- and their fans -- a bit perturbed.
“On schedule release day, everybody’s reaction is emotional,” said Mike North, NFL vice president of broadcast planning, who is on the scheduling committee. “After you digest it and understand a little bit about the math and factors that may have contributed to it, you don’t feel that much better but at least you understand it.
“All 32 teams get equal consideration. There have been some times where (the Raiders) got a favorable schedule and things didn’t work out well for them, and others where they were upset about their schedule and had great success.”
Let’s start with this: The Raiders’ delay in securing an approved stadium lease for 2019 didn’t factor into the schedule or its release date because the league started scheduling under the assumption the Silver and Black would be playing in Oakland.
If the Raiders decided to play at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara or University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. -- venues considered that already house NFL teams -- then that would have created headaches.
The team staying put did not complicate things further, though sharing Oakland Coliseum with the A's creates a tighter framework than schedulers have with other teams.
The A's are on the road from Sept. 9-15, giving schedule makers a window to have the Raiders play a Monday night opener -- West Coast teams are almost always featured in the second portion of the opening night doubleheader -- and a Sunday afternoon game in Week 2.
The Raiders had to go on the road in Week 3 with the A’s playing at home and were consequently shipped to Minnesota against the Vikings. The A’s are away in the NFL’s Week 4, but the Raiders requested a game farther east before heading to London to battle Chicago in Week 5 (as a side note, international dates are generally decided in advance of the regular schedule).
They ended up in Indianapolis in Week 4, one of just two Raiders road opponents from the Eastern Time Zone.
The bye always comes after a game in the U.K., so the off week was locked into Week 6.
There were no direct conflicts against coming home for Week 7 or Week 8 -- the Raiders play at Green Bay and Houston, respectively -- but the A’s made the playoffs last year and so there's a chance of a postseason conflict again this season.
The Raiders experienced one such conflict in 2013, when their game against the Chargers had to be postponed into the night due to an A’s playoff game and the subsequent time required to rearrange the stadium for football. The odds of that happening again are slim, but schedulers had to be cognizant of that when fitting the Raiders slate together.
Even still, Weeks 7 and 8 are a spot where the NFL could have worked a home game into the mix and kept their fingers crossed to avoid an A's conflict.
Coaches, players, and fans can find further gripes with the slate, including the tough competition that is featured in their brutal start and seven kickoffs at 10 a.m. PT.
Prolonged road trips are an issue the NFL hopes to avoid. Along with the Raiders, Tampa Bay also plays five straight away from home. Additionally, Oakland's AFC West-rival Chargers play four straight away from Carson.
It’s no coincidence that all three have international home games, undoubtedly a complicating factor when trying to create a schedule. Even so, the NFL doesn't like teams playing more than three straight away from home and it's something they'll work to avoid in the future, where possible.