The Oakland Raiders 2012 season schedule is officially here and the Raiders aren't looking too bad. Every year when the NFL releases its schedule, I like to do a quick-look analysis. It is hard at this point of the off-season to really judge a schedule because the rosters are not yet fully set. We still have the draft, some free agents and restricted free agents have not signed, and there are still camp battles to be waged and injuries to be had.
So, given all of the unknowns about what a team's roster will look like on opening day, rather than make picks for every game, I like to group them into three separate categories. The games the Raiders should win, games the Raiders should lose and games that could go either way. From this overly simplistic analysis, I make a prediction for the season record that I would advise no one to put much credence in.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags have a decent defense, but Raiders will be able to put up points and the Jags' offense, a.k.a. Maurice Jones-Drew, won't be able to keep up with the Raiders' offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Two reasons: I don't like the hire of Greg Schiano and the game is being played in Oakland. Could be a close game, but the Raiders should win this one.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns are just no good. Not a whole lot else needs to be said here.
Kansas City Chiefs (Home and Away): I know that injuries were a large part of the reason why Kansas City had a down year last year. I also know that the Raiders still lost to the despite said down year. But I still think the Raiders are a better team. Plus, they can count on at least a couple of passing touchdowns per game if they just throw at Stanford Routt in the redzone.
San Diego Chargers (Home): The Raiders open the season at home against the Chargers. Besides the last game of the 2011 season, the Raiders have played very well against the Chargers in recent seasons. This is a home game that the Raiders can and should win.
Pittsburgh Steelers: This was probably the hardest one to choose. I was very close to putting this in the "could go either way" group, but the Raiders secondary is just too suspect. Plus, while the Steelers defense is getting old, they are still very good.
At Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones could have a field day against the Raiders. If it was in Oakland, it might have made it to the "could go either way" group.
At Baltimore Ravens: If not for Billy Cundiff, the Ravens very well could have won the Super Bowl last year. The Raiders are just not good enough to expect to go in to Baltimore and come out with a win.
New Orleans Saints: This could wind up being a very close game considering the fact that bounty gate could really have a negative impact on this team. With that being said, it is still Drew Brees against the Raiders' biggest liability in their questionable secondary.
Could Go Either Way
At Miami Dolphins: The Raiders should beat the Miami Dolphins. The game is in this group because the past few years, the Dolphins have had the Raiders' number and have really embarrassed the Raiders a couple of times.
At Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals surprised everyone last season and, by retaining offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, they will likely get better this season.
At Carolina Panthers: The thought of the numbers that Cam Newton could put up against the Raiders defense frightens me.The Raiders tend to give up a ton of yards to mobile quarterbacks and, as noted above, the secondary is not exactly a strong suit.
Denver Broncos (Home and Away): To be real honest, I'm taking the easy way out here. I just do not know what to make of this team until I see whether Peyton Manning is still able to play at a high level.
San Diego Chargers (Away): This is a game the Raiders could easily win, but it is far from a guaranteed win or a should win. It's a division rival and a fairly solid team.
Overall, I think that the Raiders will be a better team than last season. Their secondary is still suspect, but I think it will be much improved this season. The young players all over the offense should continue to improve and Carson Palmer will be more comfortable with his receivers. And the Raiders defense should be better simply due to the fact that they have some very good defensive minds running things as opposed to Chuck Bresnahan.
If the Raiders win all of the games they should win, they would only need to pull out four wins from the other two groups in order to finish with a 10-6 record. Thus, based on my highly scientific and thorough analysis (read sarcasm here), I am ready to predict the Raiders will finish the 2012 season with a 10-6 record.