New York Jets

49ers' 2020 schedule ranks as toughest in NFC, fourth-hardest in NFL

49ers' 2020 schedule ranks as toughest in NFC, fourth-hardest in NFL

The 49ers took advantage of a third-place schedule this season after finishing behind both the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West a year ago. But now that they're the cream of the crop in the division, they won't have that same benefit next season.

The NFL schedule is intentionally structured to create parity. Generally, the best teams from the previous season face each other, while the teams that finished third and fourth in their respective divisions encounter a less challenging slate. The point is to create a situation in which all teams can contend for the playoffs on a regular basis.

You don't have to look further than San Francisco to get an idea of how quickly a team's fortunes can change within this system. The 49ers went from the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to the No. 1 seed in the NFC. And, consequently, they'll face a tougher road through the regular season in 2020 than they did in 2019.

The NFC West will play against the AFC East and NFC East in 2020. Counting San Francisco's six intra-divisional contests, that accounts for 14 of the 16 games the 49ers will play during the 2020 regular season. But since they finished first in their own division, they'll also face the 2019 first-place teams from the two other divisions in the conference, meaning the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.

While the game dates have yet to be announced, their locations are known. For instance, San Francisco will travel to New Orleans, while the Packers will visit Levi's Stadium in 2020 -- both for the second season in a row.

[RELATED: 49ers' 2020 opponents set after team claims NFC West title]

The 49ers' 2020 opponents compiled a combined record of 134-120-2 in 2019, which equates to a .528 winning percentage. That ranks as the toughest 2020 regular-season schedule in the NFC and the fourth-toughest in the NFL, behind the New England Patriots (.537), New York Jets (.533) and Miami Dolphins (.529). For comparison, their 2019 opponents combined for a .510 winning percentage in 2018. 

Now, just as the 49ers went from near-worst to first, it isn't uncommon to see the opposite occur. Just because a team was successful in 2019 does not guarantee that it'll be a winning squad next season, so it's certainly possible that San Francisco's 2020 schedule won't be as daunting as it currently appears. Of course, one could also argue that most -- if not all -- of the 49ers' divisional foes will be improved in 2020, so if you're expecting them to easily coast to a second straight NFC West title, you're likely asking to be disappointed.

NFL playoff picture: Raiders' path to grabbing No. 6 seed in AFC

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NFL playoff picture: Raiders' path to grabbing No. 6 seed in AFC

The Raiders were flying high two weeks ago, but they've come back down to Earth after back-to-back blowout losses to the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. 

With those two Ls marked on the ledger, the Raiders now sit at 6-6 and have gone from the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs to the No. 8 spot with work to do. 

Jon Gruden's club enters Week 14 with just a seven percent chance of making the playoffs, but where there is a will there is a way. 

With four weeks remaining in the NFL season, let's take a look at exactly what the Raiders need to happen to make the playoffs for the second time since 2002. 

Week 14

First thing's first: The Raiders have to beat the Titans on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum.

With a win, the Silver and Black's playoff chances go from seven percent to 15 percent. A loss to Tennessee puts the Raiders' postseason chances at less than one percent. Not ideal. 

Now, elsewhere Sunday, the Raiders would prefer Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals do what Baker Mayfield and the Browns could not and beat Devlin Hodges and the Steelers. A Cardinals win jumps the Raiders' playoff chances to 24 percent while a Steelers win pushes them down to 11. Even if the Steelers win, a Ravens win over the Bills would slightly increase Oakland's chances to 14 percent.

So a Raiders win, and losses by the Steelers and Bills for good measure would help. 

Assuming wins by the Texans, Colts, Browns, Patriots, Chargers and Ravens, the Raiders would exit Week 14 with a 16 percent chance to make the dance. 

Week 15

Once again in Week 15, the Raiders need to beat Gardiner Minshew and the Jags or else their playoff hopes plummet to six percent. With a win, they rise back up to 24 percent absent the other Week 15 games. 

A win by the Texans over the Titans, the Bills over the Steelers and the Saints over the Colts would see the Raiders head into the final two weeks with a 21 percent chance to make the playoffs. Getting better. 

Week 16

If the Raiders can go to LA in Week 16 and beat the Bolts, their playoff percentage jumps to 47 percent. A loss takes it down to 11 and almost certainly ends their season. 

A Ravens win over the Browns would jump the Raiders' percentage even further to 55 percent. Then, if the Jets can do to the Steelers what they did to the Raiders and deliver a loss to Pittsburgh, Oakland's playoff chances would sit at 86 percent. A Steelers win over the Jets drops them back to 27 percent. 

Even if the Steelers beat the Jets, the Raiders will not be dead. Wins by the Saints, Patriots and Ravens would take their chances up to 36 percent heading into the final week. A Steelers loss to the Jets would put them in the driver's seat. 

[RELATED: Is Justin Herbert future of Raiders?]

Week 17

Assuming the Steelers enter Week 17 having lost one of their last three games (vs. Cardinals, Bills, Jets), the Raiders would need to beat Drew Lock and the Broncos and then hope Lamar Jackson and the Ravens can knock off the Steelers. 

If the Steelers win, Oakland would need the Jets to beat the Bills (assuming Buffalo has lost two of three to New England, Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the previous three weeks). That would put Pittsburgh in the No. 5 seed and Oakland in the sixth, sending the Bills to do draft prep. 

All of this, as you have probably noticed, relies on a banged-up Raiders team beating Ryan Tannehill, Gardiner Minshew, Philip Rivers/Tyrod Taylor and Drew Lock. It's doable, but it won't be easy. 

Oakland needs to rack up the Ws and hope the Ls come for the Steelers, Bills and Titans down the stretch.

Josh Jacobs identifies turning point in Raiders’ blowout loss to Chiefs

Josh Jacobs identifies turning point in Raiders’ blowout loss to Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Everything that could go wrong did early in Oakland’s 40-9 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, but the Raiders weren’t out of it.

The score remained relatively close through most of the first half. The Raiders were down one score until late in the second quarter, when the Chiefs scored another touchdown.

The Raiders weren’t happy to be down two scores, but still felt like they were within striking distance. A comeback could be arranged if they stopped making mistakes and got their offense back on track.

That feeling didn’t last long.

Quarterback Derek Carr threw a pick six five plays later than took wind out of the Raiders’ sails.

Running back Josh Jacobs could feel the momentum change when Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill jumped Tyrell Williams’ rout, picked it and took it to the house. The game’s dynamic turned on its ear right then, and pessimism pervaded after that backbreaking turnover that Jacobs considered the game’s true turning point.

“[That] really took our morale,” Jacobs said. “You could feel the emotions. You could feel the swing. And I tried to go out there and do my job as a running back and inspire the team, inspire the play calling and all that. I tried to do my best, but I have to be better.”

Jacobs did all he could, rushing for 104 yards on 17 carries, though he only had three carries for nine yards in the second half. That pick six put Kansas City up three scores, essentially taking an efficient, steadily productive Raiders run game out of the equation.

The game got out of hand in the second half, with the Chiefs scoring routinely as time whittled down. After that pick six, though, the rout was on.

It was the second in as many weeks, following a 34-3 embarrassment at the hands of the New York Jets.

Jacobs was quick to differentiate those defeats, saying he felt better after this loss that the last one.

[RELATED: Self-inflicted wounds doom Raiders]

“We have a really good team and we’re not showcasing that right now,” Jacobs said. “That’s the biggest thing that is frustrating me. The thing I liked this week that was better than last week was that nobody gave up. That was huge for us.

“…Last week, I feel like people gave up in the game. That was biggest thing about this game, that I don’t feel like people gave up. Of course, I’m disappointed in the loss, but I’m not frustrated.”