The Raiders 2016 schedule hasn’t been formally announced, but with the standings solidified, we now know who they will be playing at home and on the road.
They will have six inter-division games, two each against the Chargers, Chiefs and Broncos, one at home versus each, and one away.
They will also face the AFC South and NFC South, the two weakest divisions in football.
Their home games will feature the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and the Buffalo Bills.
Away they face the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens.
Holy crow is that an easier schedule than the two previous seasons. In 2015, the Raiders held the sixth-toughest schedule, the most difficult in 2014, and the most recent “easy” schedule coming in 2013, when the prior season records didn’t indicate that only six games would feature non-playoff competition.
Strength of schedule can be misleading, since it takes old data which is often the result of misfortune — think the Cowboys’ and Colts’ current quarterback situations — rather than adequate measurements of a team’s true strength.
In the Raiders’ case, they’ve been shafted by a natural rotation that is predetermined, though the team was effectively tanking for at least the 2013 season, and things seem to be working out in the end.
This 2016 season features opponents who simply aren’t very good.
Houston has been without a quarterback since Matt Schaub’s second last year with the team, the Colts are awful on defense and will likely be going through a coaching change, and both Jacksonville and Tennessee have been playing with backup quality rosters for the most part.
That’s the AFC South portion. The NFC South isn’t much better — if at all.
Carolina is the only truly respectable team in the entire equation, it took until their 15th game to lose, and it wasn’t by much. The Panthers have also been without their best receiver all season, and their defense is probably going to get even better.
The Falcons are an older team without a real identity, the Saints are purely old, and their identity is a record worst most passing touchdowns ever allowed. Ever. In league history.
The Buccaneers aren’t in a bad spot, the author loves the passion and talent Jameis Winston brings and thinks there are solid things to come for Tampa Bay. But that the Raiders should be the better team when they play in 2016.
If there wasn’t already legitimate reasons for optimism, the AFC West is becoming anyone’s, especially the youngest team in the division (Raiders), but it should be much easier to secure a playoff berth with the schedule they’re getting.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.