The Oakland Raiders found out the order of their 2014 games yesterday, in one of the biggest non-stories of the offseason. Proving once again that the NFL is king when it comes to sports in America, two different channels (ESPN and NFL Network) had TV specials to announce the schedule. Who the teams would be playing and where had been known for a while; all that was announced was the dates for the games and the order in which they will be played.
But while ESPN and NFL Network may over emphasize the importance of this news, there are several noteworthy points that can be taken from the new information. Four, to be exact!
First, here is a look at the schedule.
- Week 1 – at NY Jets (10:00 am – CBS)
- Week 2 – Houston (1:25 pm – CBS)
- Week 3 – at New England (10:00 am – CBS)
- Week 4 – Miami (10:00 am – CBS … from London)
- Week 5 – BYE
- Week 6 – San Diego (1:05 pm – CBS)
- Week 7 – Arizona (1:25 pm – FOX)
- Week 8 – at Cleveland (1:25 pm – CBS)
- Week 9 – at Seattle (1:25 pm – CBS)
- Week 10 – Denver (1:05 pm – CBS)
- Week 11 – at San Diego (1:05 pm – CBS)
- Week 12 – Kansas City (5:25 pm – NFLN)
- Week 13 – at St. Louis (10:00 am – CBS)
- Week 14 – San Francisco (1:25 pm – FOX)
- Week 15 – at Kansas City (10:00 am – CBS)
- Week 16 – Buffalo (1:25 pm – CBS)
- Week 17 – at Denver (1:25 pm – CBS)
Heavy travel is all early in the season
The Raiders have three big trips in 2014, and they’ll all take place in the first four weeks of the season. The Raiders make two trips to the East Coast to play the New York Jets and the New England Patriots in Weeks 1 and 3 before heading to London to play the Dolphins in Week 4. There is only one other significant trip, distance-wise, on the schedule. That comes in Week 8 when they travel to Cleveland to play the Browns.
The Raiders have not typically traveled very well in recent years — they haven’t won a game on the East Coast in four years. It’s tough to start with two of your first three games in the Eastern Time Zone, but it also gets those games out of the way early. That means less traveling later in the season when players are worn down.
Playing at New England before going to London could be a gift
The Raiders will probably travel directly from New England to England after playing the Patriots. That would mean more than ten fewer hours on a plane for the team that week and less jet lag.
It means a longer amount of time spent away from home and in hotels, but that could be good for the Raiders. By getting to London early, the Raiders players will be able to enjoy the city a little bit before the game. Some may even have their families fly out and meet them for a mini-vacation. A long road trip early in the season would also give the team a great opportunity to bond and build chemistry, which can’t hurt since the roster will include so many new faces.
The Raiders only play one game against an AFC West opponent in the first half of the season
Oakland faces the San Diego Chargers in Week 6, and that’s it for divisional games until Week 10. They will then play five of their last eight games against divisional rivals. If the Raiders surprise people and end up being competitive through the first half of the season, this could give them a chance to do some damage in the standings.
The Raiders have two rough patches and one field of opportunity
The Raiders have two back-to-back sets of weeks that will be very difficult, but otherwise the schedule lines up nicely in terms of spreading out their more difficult opponents. In Weeks 9 and 10 they will play at Seattle before hosting Denver. In Weeks 14 and 15, the Raiders play San Francisco and home and travel to Kansas City. The Niners are probably the second best team in the NFL behind the Seahawks, and it is a very close second. Meanwhile, the Chiefs boast probably the next best homefield advantage behind Seattle.
Both of those two-week sets will be extremely challenging, but the Raiders will also have a four-game stretch of winnable games early in the year. From Weeks 4 through 8, the Raiders play Miami, San Diego, Arizona and at Cleveland. This is not to take anything away from these teams, the Chargers and Cardinals will compete for playoff spots this season and the Dolphins and Browns are both much improved teams. But if the Raiders have designs on improving their record, despite what looks like a pretty tough 2014 schedule, going 3-1 in those four games would present their best chance to get out of 4-12 purgatory.