The Oakland Raiders will have a chance to garner the respect they have spoken about during their offseason workouts. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew mentioned gaining back respect for the Raiders. Defensive end Justin Tuck wanted to revive the great franchise. With a tough slate of games waiting in 2014, the Raiders will get that opportunity.
The road to respect is paved with a brutal path. Oakland takes on all four teams that played in the NFC and AFC Championship games from 2013. They play the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks on the road and Super Bowl loser and AFC West rival, the Denver Bronco twice.
Because the Raiders are playing the AFC East this year, their travel is going to be heavy early on, starting with a road match-up with the New York Jets to begin the season. The team will have to go across the country in two of their first three games with the second being a trip to face the New England Patriots in the third week. Squeezed in between is a date with the Houston Texans at home. Quarterback Matt Schaub and defensive linemen Antonio Smith will get a crack at their former team in that one. In the fourth week, the Raiders will continue their daunting travel with a “home game” in London against the Miami Dolphins. The travel will be the x-factor in the start of the season, but the Raiders have a chance to get off to a pretty good start, if they can break the streak of terrible play in the Eastern Time Zone.
After the London trip, Oakland will go to their bye week. They come out to their first AFC West match-up of the season at home against the San Diego Chargers, followed by another home stint with the Arizona Cardinals. They will welcome back quarterback Carson Palmer and tackle Jared Veldheer, who left this offseason via free agency. So for the first six games, the Raiders will face two playoff teams from 2013 in the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers and two teams, the Dolphins and Cardinals, who were on the cusp.
Following the two straight home games, Oakland will go on the road to face the Cleveland Browns and Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks game starts a vicious slate for the Raiders. However, before that game, Oakland will have a chance to be competitive in all games. The toughest test to that point will be a very difficult road game in New England.
The Seattle game is going to be very difficult and it is followed by a home date with the Denver Broncos. So the Raiders will play both Super Bowl participants in consecutive weeks. After the Denver game, the Raiders keep it in the AFC West for two straight. They go on the road for their second game with the San Diego Chargers to close out the season series. Next, Oakland gets their only nationally televised game of the season at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. This four game stretch, where the Raiders face Seattle and all three AFC West opponents, will tell the story of the season.
After that gauntlet, the Raiders mix in some NFC West flavor. They go on the road to face the St. Louis Rams, who are an up-and-coming squad. Then they battle for the bay against the San Francisco 49ers at home. It is a tough year to draw the NFC West as all four teams are good, with the 49ers and Seahawks at the top of the NFC. It will be a very difficult six game stretch for the Raiders.
The final three games to round out the 2014 season are a road match-up with the Kansas City Chiefs to complete the two game series, a home game with the Buffalo Bills, and a road affair with the Broncos. With the NFC West and the AFC West very strong, the Raiders will be tested. There is a reason this is the toughest schedule in the NFL.
Taking a broad look and breaking the schedule down into pieces, it is imperative Oakland gets off to a good start. Most of the winnable games appear in the first half of the season. They will need to build some momentum and find their identity to toughen up for a brutal second half. This schedule will show how far the Raiders have come with all the new pieces and upgrades.
Tags: AFC West, Football, Jared Veldheer, Matt Schaub, New England Patriots, NFC West, NFL, Oakland, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl