Earlier this offseason, we took a look at the revamped Oakland Raiders roster. The final conclusion, if you don’t remember, was that — SPOLIER ALERT — the Raiders were suddenly very good and one solid draft away from becoming a serious contender.
So, in continuing our Ridiculously Early Predictions series, let’s turn our attention to that Raiders draft and how it effects their 2016 season.
I liked the Raiders draft, but that being said, I don’t think it was the franchise changer that makes them Super Bowl bound this year. I thought that Levi Damien at Silver and Black Pride summed up their draft well, with an overall B. Safety Karl Joseph improves this team immediately, but their second rounder (Jihad Ward) seems like a typical Raiders “what the hell was that?” draft pick. Fourth rounder Connor Cook was a nice pick, but didn’t seem like the right place for him as Derek Carr isn’t going anywhere and Matt McGloin seems like an already solid backup. That being said, their third round pick (Shilique Calhoun) and fifth round pick (DeAndre Washington) were considered fantastic value picks for the Raiders, but may not make that immediate impact out of the gate.
How do I see 2016 playing out?
Week 1: at New Orleans. The Raiders were a mixed bag on the road last season, going 4-4 with a big win at Mile High as well as a let down in Detroit. That being said, the Saints had an abysmal defense last season, and while a few changes have been made, I think the Raiders will look to show off their high-powered offense and show it is for real. WIN.
Week 2: vs. Atlanta. Second consecutive NFC South opponent, this time on their turf. The Falcons are a question mark. Our own Falcons guy Nomikos sees it as a Falcons win. I see this as an early pivotal test for both. Is the Raiders offense ready to be amongst the elite? Is the improved Falcons defense as good as it looks on paper? The Falcons weren’t very good on the road last year, and their one trip cross country resulted in a loss to the 49ers. I can’t see the Raiders dropping their home opener, but it’s going to be a close one. WIN.
Week 3: at Tennessee. The Titans have made a lot of improvements, but they are still young. Marcus Mariota is an uncertainty coming of injury, and I just don’t think they will be ready for the Silver and Black Attack just yet. WIN.
Week 4: at Baltimore. Road trips are tough, coast-to-cosaters with back-to-backers are even tougher. Are the Raiders better than the Ravens? Yes. Do they lose this one in a very tough place to play? Unfortunately, yes. LOSS.
Week 5: vs. San Diego. San Diego isn’t very good. But the truth is, they could be the worst team in the league and they will still give their divisional foes all they have. San Diego gives the Raiders a scare, but they prevail, eking out a close one. WIN.
Week 6: vs. Kansas City. The Chiefs are looking to stake their claim as the kings of the Wild West. Now that the Sheriff is gone, it may just be theirs. This is a statement game for them, and the Raiders are on the wrong side of it. LOSS.
Week 7: at Jacksonville. Two of the premier young, up-and-coming offenses will duke it out, but the Raiders improved defense will be the X-factor. WIN.
Week 8: at Tampa Bay. I have to agree with Dunton in his Bucs preview. The Raiders again, are the better team, but the Bucs are much improved. Their second consecutive game in Florida will wear on them. This game could go either way, but Bucs prevail. LOSS.
This is the most important stretch of the schedule. Four “home” games against both Super Bowl participants, one Divisional Champion and a team on the rise will define the Raiders season.
Week 9: vs. Denver. They beat them last year, sneaking by in a close win against that defense 15-12, and there’s no reason to think they can’t do it again on their home turf. WIN.
Week 10: BYE. The Raiders are 6-3 at the bye. Can’t be upset by that.
Week 11: vs. Texans in Mexico City. I predicted that this game could go either way, as most of the international travel games do, in my Texans preview. I also predicted the Texans, who have always had trouble putting the Raiders away consistently, lose, so I’ll stick with it. WIN.
Week 12: vs. Carolina. Despite it being their third home game in a row, that’s a lot of traveling. Panthers sneak one by the Raiders. LOSS.
Week 13: vs. Buffalo. Playoff bound teams can’t lose to fringe teams on the rise. That’s why the Raiders put the Bills in their place with a victory. WIN.
Week 14: at Kansas City. The Raiders lost both games to the Chiefs last year. I think the same may happen this year. LOSS.
Week 15: at San Diego. If the Raiders didn’t come off a big loss the week before, I think San Diego sneaks one by them on their home turf. But the Raiders will be pissed, and take it out on Rivers. WIN.
Week 16: vs. Indianapolis. This is a tough one, because who knows the health of the Colts at this point. Let’s assume Andrew Luck bounces back, but the rest of this team is huge question marks on both sides of the ball. That being said, Indy is a tough place to play. If the Colts are fully healthy, they can win, but it’s hard to imagine Frank Gore is fully healthy in Week 16… or ever for that matter. WIN.
Week 17: at Denver. Last season the Raiders split with the Super Bowl Champion Broncos. The total scores of both games were 28-25 Broncos. Is it ridiculous to think that the Raiders sweep the defending champions? Not entirely, but it depends on their QB situation. 50-percent of Peyton Manning and 90-percent of Brock Osweiler is better than Mark Sanchez, but will this be Paxton Lynch’s team by then? I see a Raiders let down, but it could go either way in another 17-14 thriller. LOSS.
Final standings: 10-6. Playoff bound as the Wild Card team. Not too shabby a season Raiders fans. And it’s only the beginning.