Kirby Lee USA TODAY Sports
The NFL has released the complete 2022 season schedule. This was after days of leaks about prime-time games. Although we knew the opponents for each team already, the dates are important. Bye weeks, travel mileage, and stretches at home and on the road are all critical components of the campaign.
Las Vegas Raiders need to take advantage early breaks before a string of midseason road matches and a challenging final stretch.
As fans circle dates in preparation to attend games, let’s break down the schedule in a lead-up to an early win-loss prediction for the Silver and Black.
No DeAndre Hopkins in Week 2
The Raiders catch a break in their Week 2 home opener against the Arizona Cardinals, who won’t have wideout DeAndre Hopkins for that outing because he’s going to serve a six-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
Don’t sleep on the Cardinals though. In a draft day trade, they acquired Marquise brown, a wideout, from the Baltimore Ravens. He has a good rapport with Kyler Murray, his former Oklahoma teammate. The duo shouldn’t take long to re-establish their connection.
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham won’t have to game plan for a three-time All-Pro wide receiver, but he must slow Brown and slot wideout Rondale Moore, who have a lot of speed on the perimeter. Murray’s ability to extend plays makes it important for the defensive backs to limit big receptions over the top and yards after the catch.
Right now, the Raiders don’t have a top-notch cornerback to match up against the league’s most elite receivers. Trayvon Mullen Jr., who had an accident recently, was able to play a key role in the Raiders’ recent win. Unspecified surgeryRock Ya-Sin and Brown should be able compete with each other, as will soon-be 34-year old A.J. Green and Nate Hobbs will be in the slot.
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An early Week 6 bye
Raiders fans may not enjoy an early bye week, due to the non-stop running from late October through January. On the flip side, they’ll have a chance to work out early tweaks with a new coaching staff.
Because of these changes, some clubs that went through a coaching transition may struggle to stay in the top ranks. If the Raiders stumble out of the gate with new head coach Josh McDaniels, who’s also the offensive play-caller, they’ll have an extra week to iron out those wrinkles mid-October.
Also, keep in mind that the team revamped its defensive line to suit Graham’s personnel preferences. Maxx Crosby played in an even-man defense under former defensive coordinators Gus Bradley and Paul Guenther. If the front seven isn’t in sync, the coaching staff can address inconsistencies during a week without a game.
One home game between Weeks 8-12
This isn’t a break for the Raiders, though it’ll test their focus. In years past, the club had problems under Jon Gruden, its former head coach. Rich Bisaccia, the former interim head coach, reversed that trend and Vegas won its final four regular-season games to secure a playoff berth.
Weeks 8-12 will be held from October 30th to November 27th. The Raiders will host only one contest at Allegiant Stadium during that time. The first two games begin at 10 AM PT (1 p.m. ET) at the New Orleans Saints or Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Saints boasted a top five scoring defense last year. They also added three time All-Pro safety Tyrann Matthewieu and Marcus Maye, to replace Malcolm Jenkins (retired), as well as Marcus Williams, who departed in open-agent.
Doug Pederson, a Super Bowl winner and head coach, could lead the Jaguars to a turnaround. He will take over a team that had the No. Trevor Lawrence, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, will be the first overall pick in 2021’s draft.
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Three of the last four home games saw the team win.
After a couple of matchups with the Los Angeles Chargers (at-home) and Los Angeles Rams(on the road), Raiders will return home for three of its final four contests. They’ll square off against playoff teams from the 2021 season in those matchups.
Between Weeks 15-18, the New England Patriots (San Francisco 49ers), and the Kansas City Chiefs (New England Patriots) will be at Allegiant Stadium.
McDaniels will go against his former team, and he’ll match wits with two of the top offensive play-callers in 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan and Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid in a critical stretch that may have significant playoff implications. The Raiders will travel to Heinz Field in Week 16, where they will face the Steelers in a cold-weather matchup.
If they win their home games, the Raiders could be in a late-season race against division rivals.
Early win-loss prediction
The division title will not be won by any of the AFC West teams this year. The Raiders (Chargers) and Denver Broncos (Chargers) have all added star players to their rosters this offseason. The Chiefs lost their most dynamic playmaker in wideout Tyreek H, a starting cornerback at Charvarius Ward and starting safety at Mathieu. They’ll need rookie first-rounders George Karlaftis and cornerback Trent McDuffie to contribute right away to fill some holes on defense.
To avoid losing potential head to head tiebreakers, the Raiders must score at least.500 against their opponents (3-3) in a division that has all four teams likely grouped together. With their offensive talent and pass-rushers capable of masking an average secondary, 7-4 outside the AFC West seems possible.
Graham must coach or find a boundary linebacker to replace Casey Hayward. Maybe Rock Yasin can live up to his potential. Or the team will push for James Bradberry, a free-agent cornerback who played under Graham two seasons ago with the New York Giants. He must also put safety Johnathan Abram where opposing quarterbacks can’t expose him in one on one pass coverage.
The Raiders need to improve their offensive line. However, they tied for second. 10thIn yards per play with a weak front line last year.
Derek Carr, the Raiders quarterback, proved that he is capable of leading the team to crucial wins even without the right support cast. He lost his head coach (Jon Gruden), big-play receiver (Henry Ruggs III) and tight end Darren Waller didn’t play in five of the last six regular-season games. He now has three high-end pass-catching players in Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow.
The Silver and Black finish with 10 wins, and its Week 18 matchup against the Chiefs could be a win-and-in scenario similar to last year’s season finale against the Chargers.
Sportsnaut’s Maurice Moton covers Raiders. Follow him on Twitter: @MoeMoton.