2017 schedule sets Raiders up for a chance at a big season

The Oakland Raiders learned their season schedule on Thursday along with the rest of the NFL and they have to be at least a little happy with it. You never want to read too much into a schedule, but at the same time, there are certain things that can be taken away from the schedule release.

I tend to look at the first four games, the last four games, travel and game start times.

THE FIRST FOUR

An easy early schedule allows a team to work out all of the kinks and get some momentum. That’s especially important for a young Raiders team. Last year was a great season but it’s not something you can just expect. Maintaining a high level of play year in and year out is extremely difficult. There’s a lot of talent on this team but most of the best players are still learning what it means to be a winning team.

And this season, the first four games don’t look too daunting.

The Raiders first four games are as follows: at the Tennessee, NYJ at home, at Washington and at Denver.

Obviously three road games isn’t ideal but the opponents are all completely beatable. The Raiders had a better record in 2016 than each of their first four opponents. Denver and Tennessee were 9-7 last season, Washington was 8-7-1 and the Jets were 5-11. Only the Jets look to be an easy win, but this is the NFL so you can never expect many easy wins. The fact that they could easily come out of their first four games with a 3-1 record or better is a great way to start the year.

THE LAST FOUR

By the last quarter of the season, the playoff picture is fairly well established and most teams know what they have to do to either get into the dance, or get a better seed in the dance. Much like the start of the year, these four games aren’t ideal since they are three road games and one home game, but again, there are beatable opponents. Over the final four weeks, the Raiders play Kansas City, Dallas, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Chiefs and Cowboys will be tough competition to be sure, but having the Chiefs in that run is a good thing. Kansas City is likely to be the main competition for the AFC West once again and having a game against them late in the season is a big opportunity to ensure an AFC West crown. And the final two games of the year, Eagles and Chargers, are games that one would expect the Raiders to win, giving them an opportunity to build momentum heading into the playoffs.

TRAVEL

The Raiders have two back to back road games and are lucky enough not to be one of the eight NFL teams who have three road games in a row this year. And on one of the back to backs, there’s a good chance the Raiders do what they did last season and simply stay on the East Coast when playing Buffalo and Miami in consecutive weeks. The other back to back has the Los Angeles Chargers on the back end which really means it’s not back to back road games but rather a road game followed by the traditional ninth home game.

START TIMES

Unlike in years past, the Raiders only have three games that start at 10:00 a.m. PST. The Raiders were road warriors last season but in the past, those early start times were a huge pain in the you know what for Oakland. It makes sense, most of us aren’t ready to get out of bed at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning, let alone play a football game.

CONCLUSION

Obviously, no schedule is perfect and no season is easy, but given the schedules the Raiders have seen in recent years, this is one of the better ones. It is far from easy, but it does give the Raiders an opportunity to build off of their first playoff appearance in over a decade with another strong season. There are no major traps like multiple long road trips or a significant number of 10 a.m. starts. The most difficult back to back games are the Cowboys and Chiefs late in the season. Besides that, the rest of the schedule sets up so that the Raiders should be able to avoid multiple game losing streaks most of the year.

But of course, this is all just on papaer and you still have to play the games.

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