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NFL Schedule Predictions: A Look At The Oakland Raiders' Path To The AFC West Title

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If the Raiders are going to win the division, they are going to have to do it with a much harder schedule than what they have faced and a much harder schedule than what the Chiefs and Chargers face.

The Raiders have hit the bye week running, for the first time since forever seasons ago. This means while they are sitting at home, putting their feet up, playing with their kids or homies, getting in a little training while doing absolutely nothing illegal or detrimental to their health, they may actually earn their first division lead, since that same forever seasons ago. In Raiderland, forever seasons ago is 2002.

Not that it would be wise to bet on this happening. The Raiders hope of seeing first place without even taking the field rests on the slumping shoulders of the Denver Broncos. The Broncos play host to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Never fear though, in the likely event of a Bronco loss, the Raiders will go back to work only a game out of first place and even more importantly, they’ll control their own destiny.

If the Raiders are going to pass the Chiefs, they are going to have to do it against tougher competition--tougher competition than what they have faced and tougher competition than what the rest of the division faces. The Raiders remaining opponents have a combined record of 32-27 (54 percent), while the Chiefs are facing opponents with a combined record of 29-37 (44 percent). Other than the Raiders, the Chiefs only have one game remaining against a team over 500 and that is a Week 16 contest against the Titans. They will face both the Titans and the Raiders on their home turf.

The Chiefs may not be the only team standing in the Raiders way. Despite numerous injuries and every attempt by their special teams to derail their season, the Chargers lurk just a game behind the Raiders. The Chargers schedule appears even easier than the Chiefs as their opponents are a combined 23-34 (40 percent).  Other than the Raiders and the Chiefs, the Chargers only face one opponent over 500. They travel to take on the Colts in Week 11. The Chargers have a history of second half runs and their schedule is setting them up for another one. Their last three opponents (Broncos, 49ers and Bengals) each only have two wins.

In the unlikely event that the Raiders do not go undefeated in their last seven games, they may need some help from the evil forces, or horses as it is in this case. In an oddity of scheduling, the Raiders would benefit from a Broncos resurgence. The Broncos, at 2-6, aren’t going to win this division, but they certainly could determine who does. The Chiefs and Chargers have yet to play the Broncos and both of their next games are against the Broncos.

Enough about these inferior teams, sitting around hoping for others to fail is loser talk. When the Raiders win the division, they will have the satisfaction of knowing they earned it. As I said, the Raiders remaining opponents have a winning percentage of 54. This is in stark contrast to the winning percentage of 45 for the teams they have already played.

On paper, this would appear to be a giant problem but is it? This is the Raiders were talking about. Since when does an opponents record matter? For evidence of this one need look no further than this season. The Raiders are 3-2 against the teams they played with records that are .500 or better. Two of their three worst games came against teams under .500. A good sign, for a team facing stiff competition in the remaining slate of their games.

Here's what the rest of the season looks like:

@Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)

You know the score here. The Steelers are at or near the top of all the power polls. They have an awesome, attacking defense, that is the league's best against the run. As a horrible quirk of the up and down nature of the NFL and the scheduling, the Chargers play the Bengals (2-6) because they both won their divisions and the Chiefs played the Browns, because they both lost theirs.

Miami Dolphins 4-4

The good news: The Raiders get the Dolphins at home. The bad news: The Dolphins have been way better on the road. Quick Facts: They are 4-1 on the road, but then again, they have played lesser competition on the road. Only one of the Dolphins wins has come against a team .500 or better. The Dolphins just announced that Chad Pennington is still playing football and he is actually going to be their starter. Who knows if his sewn together arm and old body will hold together long enough to get him onto the field for this game? Whatever their QB situation is, let’s just hope Nnam is back to shut down Brandon Marshall like everyone already knows he can.

@San Diego Chargers (4-5)

The Oakland Raiders have beaten the Chargers one straight time! Suck it Chargers. Y’all know the Chargers and if you don’t, why are you reading this? Bandwagon Weekly can be found elsewhere.

@Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4)

Quick Facts: The Jaguars have only one victory against a team .500 or better. They don’t have a very good rushing defense. They’ve already been blown-out by the Chargers and the Chiefs. They have an MLB named Kirk Morrison, they don’t have a WR named Jacoby Ford and they have a TE named Zach Miller, who won’t even be the best TE named Zach Miller on the field in this game.

Denver Broncos (2-6)

The Broncos suck and the Raiders blew them out. Last year the Raiders sucked and were blown out by the Broncos, but the Raiders won the second contest.

Indianapolis Colts (5-3)  

Qiuck Facts: The Colts may be a factor if they could ever get some good QB play. The way things are going the Colts will be lucky to have enough healthy people to play this game. They are currently ranked 32nd in yards allowed per carry at 5.1. If things continue as they are, this game may get flexed to Sunday night. 

@Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)

You thought last week was intense? Imagine if this one is for the division.

There you have it, the Raiders road to division first place-itude. It is the bumpiest road out of the contenders, but it is only fair, since they are by far the best team in the history of creation.