By Kevin Saito @Kevin_Saito on April 26, 2014
Once again, the NFL schedule-makers gave the Raiders a big middle finger by slapping them with the league's toughest schedule in 2014. This year's team is vastly improved, but will the revamped Raiders rise to the challenge? Or will they fall flat? Only time will tell for certain, but let's look at a game by game prediction of their coming season.
Though the Jets added key players like Chris Johnson and Eric Decker, they're still relying on Geno Smith to move the offense -- a guy who, at times, looked barely more competent than Mark Sanchez. The Silver and Black should get off to a strong start.
Prediction: Win (1-0)
Matt Schaub will have plenty of incentive to light up the team that gave up on him. Schaub's play will be elevated, and though they have J.J. Watt and perhaps Jadeveon Clowney on defense, Case Keenum will be under center. A fired up Raiders' squad will take it to Houston.
Preditcion: Win (2-0)
The Raiders are going to get a stiff test in Week 3. Though these aren't the same Patriots who won multiple titles, this is still Tom Brady -- a guy who finds ways to win. The new-look Raiders' defense will be able to keep it close, but a lot of things need to go right to pull out a win here.
Prediction: Loss (2-1)
Expect some ragged, sloppy play from both teams after having to travel across the Atlantic for this game. Miami hasn't had a busy offseason and hasn't done much to upgrade their team. So long as the Raiders keep their focus and their mistakes to a minimum, they should win this one.
Prediction: Win (3-1)
Division games are always hard-fought battles. Battles the Raiders have been on the losing side of far too often in recent years. The Chargers, though, haven't done much this offseason but get older. For the first time in a while, Oakland may have too much for San Diego to handle.
Prediction: Win (4-1)
OT Jared Veldheer will have plenty of motivation to beat the team he feels disrespected him. But what determines the game will be whether or not Carson Palmer can be effective with a fierce pass rush in his face better than he did when he played for Oakland. If the defense can get to him, they win.
Prediction: Win (5-1)
Cleveland dropped a load of money on roster upgrades this offseason. But their question marks at the quarterback position will keep them inconsistent this year -- even if they do draft Johnny Manziel who will struggle as he adapts to the speed of the NFL. Their quarterback issues will prevent the Browns from winning a lot this season.
Prediction: Win (6-1)
They won the Super Bowl last season with a suffocating defense and and oftentimes electric offense. With their core of young players intact, Seattle doesn't show any signs of letting up any time soon. They're still a force to be reckoned with. The Raiders are improved, but they won't be able to keep pace with Seattle.
Prediction: Loss (6-2)
Peyton Manning and Denver's high-octane offense are still the class of the AFC, and still have to be considered among the top teams in the NFL. The Broncos beefed up this offseason with some key acquisitions, and are considered by many to be favorites to return to the Super Bowl this year.
Prediction: Loss (6-3)
With as many Raider fans in San Diego as there are in Oakland, this is like another home game. Another tough divisional game will yield the same result as their first meeting. The defense will give Phillip Rivers fits, and the Raiders will break their two-game losing streak.
Prediction: Win (7-3)
Despite some key offseason losses, Alex Smith still has some weapons at his disposal. And a healthy Jamaal Charles is always a beast to deal with. New blood in Oakland, though, will revitalize this rivalry and the Raiders' offseason upgrades will carry the day with a home win over a divisional opponent.
Prediction: Win (8-3)
The Rams have a hellacious defense that makes life difficult for opposing offenses. The Rams, though, have some quarterback questions they need to answer. Sam Bradford's inconsistency will cost the Rams some games -- this will be one of them.
Prediction: Win (9-3)
Though they've had a rough offseason, the 49ers remain the second-best team in the NFC. They're solid on both sides of the ball and don't have a lot of weaknesses to their game. They're an explosive team that isn't going to let the off-the-field distractions get in the way of their game.
Prediction: Loss (9-4)
Arrowhead stadium is a rough place to play for visiting teams. And with good reason. Not only is the crowd brutal, but the Chiefs are tough at home. Division rivalry games are unpredictable things, but it's usually smart to give the home team the edge.
Prediction: Loss (9-5)
The loss of Jairus Bird -- one of the top players at his position in the league -- is going to hurt the Buffalo defense, a defense that, on paper, doesn't look overly imposing even with him on the roster. But it's the inconsistency of its offense that is more problematic. This game isn't a gimmie by any stretch of the imagination, but its one that the Raiders should win.
Prediction: Win (10-5)
They've lessened the gap in talent with Denver, but the Raiders aren't quite there yet. The game will be more competitive than their matchups have been recently, but in Mile High, the result is likely going to be the same as their recent tilts.
Prediction: Loss (10-6)
Is 10-6, after consecutive 4-12 seasons, just wishful thinking? A pipe dream? Perhaps, but with a vastly improved roster, new purpose and culture in Oakland -- not to mention parity in the league being what it is -- it's not outside the realm of possibility. Lamarr Woodley thinks the Raiders are a playoff team. If they play to their potential, he may well be right.
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