The NFL department of Last Word On Sports have already broken down the eight easiest and most difficult games for the Oakland Raiders in 2016. This article will break down the five most pivotal Oakland Raiders games in 2016. How the Silver and Black perform against these five opponents will determine whether or not they are legitimate contenders this season.
Most Pivotal Oakland Raiders Games
Week 1 at New Orleans Saints
Unsurprisingly, the first game of the season is one of the most pivotal for Oakland. The Raiders travel to the SuperDome to play against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Other than just being the first week of the season, the Saints are the perfect match for the Raiders. The Raiders were 26th in pass defense last season, and haven’t had a top ten pass defense since 2010. Drew Brees is one of the most prolific passers in football, averaging 5,043 yards a season over the last six years and is on pace to set the all-time yardage record.
The Raiders have made defense a priority this off-season, adding Sean Smith, Karl Joseph, Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin, Shilique Calhoun, and Jihad Ward. If the Oakland Raiders are serious about making the playoffs this year, they’ll have to keep Brees and the Saints passing attack in check. The Raiders have struggled when playing on the east coast, losing 15 of their last 16 games in that time zone. A week one win against a prolific passing attack, on the road, would start the season on the right path.
Week 4 at Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens are going to be difficult for the Raiders for some of the very same reasons that the Saints will be. The Raiders will have to travel to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore to face Joe Flacco and the Ravens early in the season, and this could be a tough game for the Raiders. The Raiders were able to beat the Ravens 37-33 in week two last season, but it was a completely different Baltimore team. The more relevant of the Raiders/Ravens match-ups came the last time Oakland traveled to Baltimore in 2012. The Ravens defeated the Raiders 55-20 in what was the worst loss in franchise history at that point.
Now obviously, both of these teams have changed drastically since then. The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl that season, and the Raiders were starting Carson Palmer at quarterback at the time. The Ravens were bad in 2015, but they should be much improved with additions like Mike Wallace and Eric Weddle, as well as the team’s return to health.
If the Raiders are able to travel to the east coast and defeat a talented team like the Ravens, they’ll be much more prepared later on if they need to travel to New England or Pittsburgh in the playoffs.
Week 12 vs. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers were arguably the best team in the National Football League last season. They were 15-1, won the NFC championship game in convincing fashion, and quarterback Cam Newton won the Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards. The Oakland Raiders are hosting this game, but the Panthers will certainly be their biggest challenge.
Unless the loss of cornerback Josh Norman is more serious than anyone is anticipating, Derek Carr and the Raiders offense should really struggle in this game. Being realistic, it’s unlikely that the Silver and Black will come away with a win against the defending NFC champions. However, if the Raiders were able to somehow pull out the win, they would have put the entire league on notice and announced themselves as true contenders.
Week 14 at Kansas City Chiefs
This is the most pivotal Oakland Raiders game of the year. Late in the season, the Oakland Raiders should be in the division title conversation. Traveling to the daunting Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs could be huge. The Chiefs swept the Raiders in 2015 and both games were ugly, physical games. Sean Smith, a key acquisition for the Raiders this year, was a starter for the Chiefs last season. This move could be the difference for both teams as Derek Carr and the offense look to take a huge step this season.
A win against the Chiefs in week 14 could lock up the AFC West for the Oakland Raiders, and a loss could do the opposite. The evolution of Travis Kelce and the return of Jamaal Charles will make the Kansas City offense dangerous, but hopefully the defensive additions will be enough for the Raiders to win.
Week 16 vs. The Indianapolis Colts
If the Oakland Raiders are in the playoff conversation, this late season game will be huge. Currently the game is scheduled for 4:05 EST, but don’t be surprised if the duel between these two talented quarterbacks gets bumped to primetime. Carr and Andrew Luck are looking to be this generation’s Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and this game could be a classic with playoff implications.