2019 Raiders Schedule Review, Notes, and Predictions

It’s fun planting your flag. It’s not fun looking at some of these win totals, but this is a fun piece to craft nonetheless. I use it as a dumping ground for all my offseason thoughts as we head into the regular season. Here’s how I’ve fared in the past:

2016: Predicted 10-6; finished 12-4.

2017: Predicted 7-9; finished 6-10.

2018: Couldn’t muster the courage for a full write-up after a certain trade, landed on 6 wins though; finished 4-12.

2019’s thoughts can be found below of course. For those that have followed along for the past few years now, I tend to be a little more pessimistic than most. The Jon Gruden hire didn’t really do much to change that. I hope to be proven wrong in the end. That road appears long, however. There were things that I liked this offseason, and things that I didn’t agree with. I’ll try to neatly condense my thoughts on both sides of the ball, go game-by-game, and give y’all a final season prediction as we tie a bow on another summer.

Offense.

This team goes as far as Derek Carr takes them. We know what he did in 2016 when all the stars aligned. I’m on record: I’m not sure he’s quite consistently that level of player, but I’m fairly confident that he’s not this bottom tier quarterback many paint him to be either. You can win with him, but he needs that ideal environment (which is why the money looks funny at times). He came on toward the end of the last season, and the hope is that another year under Gruden’s “wings” and in his system, things will continue to trend upward.

This season, Carr has some assistance in order to ensure that the trend continues in the proper direction. Foot and helmet issues aside, team fines, all that, Antonio Brown is obviously (still) a special player. Oakland is a step down from Pittsburgh in a vacuum, but big picture, Brown remains an elite, game-breaking talent. Will Carr utilize him as such? The volume should be there regardless, and while the efficiency may take a hit, Carr’s never had a weapon like Brown (sorry, Amari Cooper). Opposite Brown, Tyrell Williams also got the bag this offseason. He’s able to win downfield, somewhere Carr hasn’t looked as often as many would like, although his deep ball is one of the prettier ones across the league. Again, the pieces are in place, and it’s up to the signal-caller to put his stamp on things and prove folks (myself included, to an extent) wrong.

Rounding out the pass-catchers, I’m particularly high on rookie Hunter Renfrow. I love his story, and love the possibilities, replacing and upgrading Seth Roberts in the WR3 spot. Last name of note: Tight end Darren Waller, who steps into the spotlight post-Jared Cook. Oakland leads the league in vacated targets from 2018, but one would imagine many of those targets are quickly claimed by the new additions out wide. Still, the opportunity is there for Waller on the underneath stuff, and his above average athleticism could help see the offseason training camp hype through.

I don’t care much for the offensive line, which is sad to say because newly paid (deservedly so) center Rodney Hudson is arguably the game’s best (his paycheck says that anyway). But having a talent like Hudson controlling the middle doesn’t mean much when Tom Cable, annual offensive line killer, is still employed and “coaching” on the sideline. Kolton Miller is still a project on the left side, and again, expectations are low given where the coaching is coming from. He is finally healthy, we’re told. Opposite Miller, Trent Brown also cashed in this offseason, becoming the NFL’s highest paid right tackle. Keeping Carr clean is priority one as we may have alluded to earlier, and focusing on the right side makes a lot of sense — especially in the AFC West. Brown was a camp standout in his own right, but that probably speaks more to the level of competition (or lack thereof) on the other side of the ball. More on that in a minute.

Finally, the backfield. The Raiders opted for a running back in the first-round of the 2019 draft, crowning Josh Jacobs their new RB1. The jokes on the timeline immediately followed, given how little the position matters in today’s game. Still, I like Jacobs the player, although he was polarizing given his usage and production at Alabama. A Day 2 pick would’ve sat a lot better with me personally. Anyway, Gruden gets what Gruden wants — and Gruden wants to feed his workhorse runner. Expecting Jacobs to mix it up plenty in the pass game out of the back, as well.

Defense.

Here’s where my pessimism is largely is rooted. I still see a lot of holes and/or question marks on the defensive side of the ball. Starting up front, I don’t know what to expect out of rookie pass rusher Clelin Ferrell year one. Much like Jacobs on offense, I liked Ferrell the player coming out of school, but would’ve went a couple of different directions where the former Tiger heard his name called this past spring. Still, edge rusher was/is an obvious need for the Raiders, but I’m tempering expectations. Fellow pass rush specialist Arden Key notched a highlight reel sack during this year’s preseason contest, and had many thinking that his sophomore campaign might be the year. Once thought of as a premier, top-10 draft pick, turns out there were more questions than answers with Key — at least early on.

Arguably the most talented player on defense (save for Lamarcus Joyner), or perhaps the one with the highest ceiling, Maurice Hurst enters his second season. Everything for the Raiders on defense starts on the line (where the production has been nonexistent going on several seasons now), so Hurst generating some consistent pressure, much like we saw at Michigan, would be an enormous step in the right direction. Speaking of question marks, outside of Vontaze Burfict who brings some familiarity given his time spent with the Raiders current defensive coordinator in Cincinnati, the linebacker corp doesn’t feature a standout player. It’s been a glaring weakness for Oakland since the days of Kirk Morrison, it seems. And even then…

I highlighted Joyner already. His best season with the Rams came at free safety. Karl Joseph is another player that needs to make a statement given where he was drafted, and much of the same can be said for Gareon Conley. These were first-round investments that have yet to pan out. Any success on this side of the ball will be a direct result of these players living up to their respective draft slots. New general manager Mike Mayock added another first-round defensive back in Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram. In the Keanu Neal mold, Abram’s a hitter with all the intangibles. He starred in this season of HBO’s Hard Knocks, and most are expecting an early return on investment.

Okay, so now you know my thoughts on most of the key players. You also need to know that the Raiders have, once again, the league’s toughest schedule. I know fandom matters more than anything else, and you’re not a true fan unless you see double-digit wins and a deep playoff run each year. I get it. That said, it’s also fair and reasonable to take into account factors like distance traveled, for example, when giving the season’s possible outcome an honest assessment. I try and do that below.

(Related: Also worth noting that the Raiders’ Vegas win total is set at 6 for the 2019 season)

Week 1: Denver Broncos on Monday, Sept. 9 at 10:20 p.m. ET

Win

The offense comes out hot, a lot of the Carr diehards are ecstatic on the timeline and letting everyone know about it. The revamped wide receiver group is on full display in addition to the new rookie running back. Denver’s defense is better than last year, notably better, but Oakland’s firepower is just a little too much to handle.

Week 2: Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 4:05 p.m. ET

Loss

Patrick Mahomes is special. While I think the Chiefs’ defense is certainly exploitable, on the other hand, I don’t see the Raiders being able to stop Kansas City’s phenomenal signal-caller and his bevy of weapons.

Week 3: at Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 1 p.m. ET

Loss

The Vikings’ offense should be much improved with additions across the offensive line, a healthy Dalvin Cook, a returning dominant duo at wide receiver, and a new face in Gary Kubiak on the headset orchestrating things. We know their defense remains legit. Just a better squad overall, on their turf.

Week 4: at Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. ET

Win

I trust the Raiders to do enough on defense, somehow, in order to slow newly paid (???) starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett. One of the better rosters and front offices still feeling the blows from Andrew Luck riding off. Wouldn’t surprise in the slightest if Oakland lets this one slip away though, given the roster that Chris Ballard has assembled — even minus Luck.

Week 5: Chicago Bears in London on Sunday, October 6 at 1 p.m. ET

Loss

Bears in London doesn’t setup well for Oakland at all. Assuming Khalil Mack is his regular all-world self, that setup looks even more unfriendlier. Kinda the flip-flop of the Chiefs team: Standout defense, questionable offense. If the Bears’ young quarterback comes out the gate and looks markedly better to start the season, this could be even uglier.

Week 6: BYE

Week 7: at Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m. ET

Loss

I don’t foresee Carr being able to box with Aaron Rodgers. There will be points, of course, but see Oakland falling short by a score or more.

Week 8: at Houston Texans on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. ET

Loss

Mahomes staying hot, Cousins due for positive regression, Rodgers being Rodgers, and now Deshaun Watson. Pretty brutal opening half stretch for an iffy-at-best Raiders defense.

Week 9: Detroit Lions on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 4:05 p.m. ET

Win

It could be a Kerryon Johnson breakout season coming out of the backfield. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay has already looked like borderline dominant player at times, and should give the Raiders’ secondary fits. Lots of points here again, and trusting Brown to put this one away in the end.

Week 10: Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 8:20 p.m. ET

Loss

Philip Rivers has the Raiders number. No Melvin Gordon (or Derwin James), no problem.

Week 11: Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 4:25 p.m. ET

Win

Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense are better than many may give credit for despite the injuries to the offensive line. Week 11, so I’m figuring that A.J. Green is back — and if that is the case and he is healthy, might coin-flip this one.

Week 12: at New York Jets on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. ET

Loss

This assumes that Sam Darnold really is that franchise quarterback for the Jets. He’s young, and could/should continue to rise. There are weapons on offense like Robby Anderson and free agent addition Jamison Crowder — oh and Le’Veon Bell. The defense looks strong in their own right. Just a solid team and a good game that ends up disappointing fans.

Week 13: at Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. ET

Loss

It’s Mahomes again, you guys. Assuming he’s healthy, and players like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are on the field, it’s just not a good match-up for Oakland.

Week 14: Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Dec. 8 at 4:25 p.m. ET

Win

The outcome of this game depends on where Marcus Mariota is as a player. I’m a fan, but he hasn’t taken that step forward to this point. This result figures that stays unchanged.

Week 15: Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 4:05 p.m. ET

Loss

I can go either way with this contest. On one hand, Nick Foles presents an obvious upgrade over Blake Bortles — but it’s still Foles. I like some of their pieces on offense, namely Dede Westbrook. While I’m not a particular fan of Leonard Fournette, if he’s healthy and running hard, this one could be ugly. Loss comes at the hands of the Jaguars’ talented defense ultimately.

Week 16: at Los Angeles Chargers on either Saturday, Dec. 21 or Sunday, Dec. 22 — TBD

Loss

Rivers. Raiders. Rinse. Repeat.

Week 17: at Denver Broncos on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 4:25 p.m. ET

Loss

I’m not sure Joe Flacco is under center for this one, but Mile High is tough as hell to visit and at this point, if things play out in this manner, it’s been a rough journey to even get there.

Final record prediction: 5-11. Let me know where we agree and disagree, and where you see this year’s team finishing record-wise.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive

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