If you were to mention the idea that a conspiracy exists within the NFL league offices, a conspiracy enacted to screw over the Oakland Raiders at every possible turn because of former owner Al Davis‘ renegade ways, you would likely be met with laughter, eye rolling and perhaps a sad little shake of the head. You could point to instances like the Immaculate Reception, the Tuck Game or 100 other cases where a controversial ruling has gone against Oakland, and still, very few people would believe you. Most people would likely just label you a disgruntled, likely delusional, Raider fan and leave it at that.
Well, if you are one of the Raiders-conspiracy deniers, perhaps this little factoid will change your way of thinking – Oakland’s travel schedule this season is, by far, the most grueling and hellish in the entire league.
And when I say by far the most grueling and hellish in the league, I mean nobody else is even close.
First of all, despite finishing 4-12 the last two seasons, and having missed the playoffs for 12 consecutive years – and counting – the NFL gifted the Raiders with the league’s toughest schedule this season. The Raiders’ opponents in 2014 posted a combined winning percentage of .578 last season — most difficult in the league. As a means of comparison, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, both Super Bowl teams last season, have schedules with opponents who had a collective winning percentage of .570 and .561, respectively. The Indianapolis Colts who, behind Andrew Luck, made it to the divisional round of the playoffs before falling to the New England Patriots last season, have opponents who combined for a winning percentage of .430 in 2013. Does it seem like the league has a preference for ensuring who has the easiest path back to the postseason?
The strength of schedule isn’t even the biggest issue facing the Raiders heading into the 2014 season. No, that would be the travel schedule the league has forced on Oakland.
In 2014, the Raiders are going to log more miles than any other franchise in the league – way more. In fact, Oakland is set to travel a total of 36,106 miles over the course of the season – a season that includes a trip to play in England — the country across the Atlantic, not the new one where Tom Brady plays. They will have the most road games – four – in which they will have to travel more than 2,000 miles just to get to it.
The team with the next highest amount of miles they’ll have to travel? The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, who will have to travel 26,144 miles over the course of their season. If you’re doing the math at home, the Raiders will travel nearly 10,000 miles more than any other team in the league in 2014. Ten thousand!
Just to add a little context to that figure, the Raiders, by themselves, are going to have to travel more miles than the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers – combined.
The Raiders now have the talent and leadership on their roster to break their 12-season playoff drought. This is a team that seems to be on the rise, and on the verge of a breakthrough. But they will have to travel a very long way – very literally – and fight through the haze of jet lag to do it. The league has done absolutely no favors for Oakland in slapping them with the league’s toughest schedule, as well as the most hellish travel schedule of any team in the NFL.
Still think a conspiracy against the Raiders doesn’t exist?