It’s summer and it’s over five weeks until the Oakland Raiders report for training camp. In the meantime, our own Matt Gutierrez continues his look at the Raiders 2018 schedule and tells us how they’ll fair.
We move now to the second quarter of our way early look at the Raiders 2018 schedule. As you remember from the first part of our series, we have the Raiders going 3-1 over their first four games. Those games included two at home in Oakland, and two on the road in Denver and Miami. The next four games also have an even home and road split, but only one of the two “home” games will be played at the Coliseum.
Week 5: @Chargers
We start in week 5 as the Raiders make the trip south to Los Angeles to take on AFC West rival, the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers should be the class of the division in 2018. I, along with many others, have them winning the West.
LA ranked third in points per game allowed (17) in 2017, and drafted safety Derwin James out of Florida State with their first round selection. They also went all defense in each of the next three rounds. The Chargers still have Philip Rivers at quarterback and he is now the dean of the QB in the AFC West. Rivers hasn’t had the postseason success of his 2004 QB classmates, but he’s been one of the best regular season QB’s of the last 13 years. Even with the loss of tight end, Hunter Henry (which could lead to the team resigning discarded great Antonio Gates), the Chargers offense will be one of the better units in the NFL.
There will be plenty of silver and black in the stands in LA, but this will be a tough one for the Raiders to win. The Chargers finished last season winning six of their final eight games and completely dominated the Raiders in week 17. Don’t expect a lot of scoring from two high-powered offenses as I expect both defenses to be playing well by week 5. The edge must go to the Chargers defense here, though. They have a much smaller hill to climb from where they both were last year. Expect a heavy dose of Joey Bosa off the right side of the Raiders o-line, which will continue to be a carousel this season. Chargers win this one 20-13.
They’ll always be a threat to steal a game so long as Russell Wilson is their quarterback. Despite Wilson’s talent and experience, he won’t be enough to keep up with the Raiders offense in London.
Week 6: Seahawks (London)
Week 6 is a home game against the Seattle Seahawks. It’s a home game in name only as it will be played over 5,300 miles from the Coliseum at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England. The Raiders are 1-2 in out of country games. Their one appearance in London was a 38-14 beatdown at the hands of the Miami Dolphins in Carr’s rookie season.
The “Legion of Boom” is no more in Seattle as several players key to the Seahawks two Super Bowl runs are gone – including Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman. Kris Richard is also out as defensive coordinator and Ken Norton Jr is in. Some of the blame for the Raiders lackluster defense over the last few years has been put on Jack Del Rio, but it was Norton who was the defensive coordinator in Oakland. If he really is as bad as it looked in Oakland, the Seahawks are in for a rough season defensively.
They’ll always be a threat to steal a game so long as Russell Wilson is their quarterback. Despite Wilson’s talent and experience, he won’t be enough to keep up with the Raiders offense in London. The Raiders will no doubt take advantage of a shaky Seattle defense and put on a show for their loyal fans across the pond. Raiders run away with this one 34-10 and move to 4-2 as they head into their bye week.
Week 7: Bye
Week 8: Colts
Will Andrew Luck play, or won’t he? That is the single biggest question coming out of Indianapolis as we head towards the 2018 season. It’s the difference between the Colts being somewhere around .500 and being the doormat of the NFL. Luck is still dealing with the shoulder injury that sidelined him for the entire ’17 season. Latest reports have him finally throwing a football – all be it a high school sized ball.
Without Luck, the Colts have been terrible, going 4-12 last year. Even with him in the lineup, I don’t think the Colts will be a very good team. There aren’t enough weapons on offense, and their offensive line has been a mess. Number six overall pick, Quenton Nelson may help at the guard spot, but it won’t be enough to stop the likes of Mack, Irvin, and Hurst from setting up camp in their backfield. This will be a fun game for the fans in Oakland much like the last home game they saw vs the Browns. There will also be some measurement of payback involved for the Colts effectively ending the Raiders 2016 Super Bowl hopes by breaking Derek Carr’s leg in week 16. Raiders move to 5-2 with a 35-17 win over the Colts.
Week 9: @49ers
Week 9 will most likely be the last time NFL fans see a Bay Area rivalry. The Raiders will travel south along the I-880 to Santa Clara to face the San Francisco 49ers. This will be the Raiders first trip to the 49ers new home. Their last meeting was played in Oakland in 2014. The Raiders hold a slim 7-6 edge in the all-time series and will no doubt want to finish the Bay Area rivalry on top.
Jimmy Garoppolo was named the 49ers starter in week 13 of 2017. All he did was lead them to five straight wins to close out the season. Garoppolo is now 7-0 as a starter in the NFL. Not a huge sample size, but enough for San Francisco to justify giving him a 5-year $137.5 million contract. Will he fall into the overpaid category I talked about in part 1, or will he turn out to be an elite starter in the NFL? Taking a team that was 1-10 to 6-10 points to the latter, but time will tell.
Aside from Garoppolo looking the part, I think the 49ers are a much-improved team. While I don’t think they’ll yet be a playoff team, they will make for a very tough opponent this season. Additions like free agents Richard Sherman and Weston Richburg, and number nine overall draft pick, Mike McGlinchey are a few of the reasons why.
San Francisco was in the bottom half of the league in pass defense in ’17. A healthy Sherman will help solve some of those problems. Health is the primary word here as Sherman is coming off an Achilles tear suffered in early November. The offensive line allowed the 10th most sacks (43) in the NFL last season, and both McGlinchey (T) and Richburg (C) will be key to keeping Garoppolo upright.
This is a tough one to call. I can see it going either way. While I do believe the Raiders will be the better team at this point of the season, I have a feeling the 49ers will find a way to even up the all-time series in its finale. This will be a back and forth game most likely coming down to who has the ball last. 49ers pull off the mid-season upset 23-21 on a late FG dropping the Raiders to 5-3 at the midpoint of the season.