This early in the season it’s tough to do much in the way of previews, as there aren’t yet enough trends to spot anything really predictable. The good news is that Oakland currently is #1 in offensive rushing; the bad news is that they’re dead last in passing and total yards defensively. Obviously, both rankings will probably change after the next game.
Coming off a wild finish in New Orleans last week, the Raiders should put up a solid home opener against an Atlanta team that got tuned up for 281 yards and 4 TDs by Jameis Winston and the Bucs.
The Falcons’ main weakness — pass defense — mirrors the Raiders’ own. New CB Sean Smith got torched repeatedly by Drew Brees, so Matt Ryan will be itching to test Smith out with Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, and Tevin Coleman. Jones and Sanu each had aTD in Tampa Bay last week, and Coleman racked up 95 yards on 5 receptions.
Atlanta only managed 52 rushing yards (including 10 from Ryan), so they may be vulnerable in the running game, as well as their pass defense.
Already the Raiders’ offensive line is in trouble. Right tackles Menelik Watson (groin) and Matt McCants (knee) are both doubtful, and center Rodney Hudson (knee) and RG Gabe Jackson (knee) are both listed as questionable. RB and special teams ace Taiwan Jones (concussion) is also listed as questionable.
With a victory, Oakland would start 2-0 for the first time since 2002, and beat Atlanta for the first time since 2000.
We’re all glad that the Raiders are everyone’s sleeper pick for the playoffs this year, but if the schedule makers weren’t trying to make that as difficult as possible, they sure made it look like they were. Three road trips to the Eastern Time Zones in the first eight games, including one in the first four games, plus New Orleans for the season opener and Tennessee in Week 3. Three of the final four games are the division road matches. The Week 11 game against the Texans will be played in Mexico City, but counted as a home game.
Usually my motto is “win at home, win the division,” because if you just do those things, you’re automatically 11-5. But this year the Raiders will have to be effective on the road, and able to get off to a quick start, both in each game and in the season overall. They’ve made some nice moves in free agency and the draft, nothing splashy or spectacular, but definitely solid moves, especially on defense. Free agents Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith should help greatly, and second-round draft pick Jihad Ward made an impression in camp and preseason.
This should be a fun season with lots of impact players. GO RAIDERS!
It’s finally here, and it’s something else. Lots of road trips bookending just seven home games for the third year in a row (the Week 11 game against Houston will be played in Mexico City, but is listed as a Raiders home game, just like the Wembley Stadium games in 2015 and 2014).
The game-by-game predictions might not be too far off the mark; it’s not unreasonable to expect ten wins out of this squad. But they’re going to have to start and finish the season strong with all those road trips.