The raiders realist

FSM Presents: The Raiders Realist – A Daring Schedule for 2021

Franchise Sports Media


Fate has her golden sons, and her bastards.”― Jennifer Mardoll, The Sarrington Estate


The Raiders Realist
Photo Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

You know, I try to look at things on the logical side. That’s the whole idea being The Raiders Realist. Some things require a bit of extra effort to do so, though, I must admit. One of them is being a Las Vegas Raiders fan and seeing certain things play out time after time.

Near the top of that list is the National Football League schedule. Somehow, despite being one of the worst teams in the league over the last 18 years (sorry, it is the truth), the Raiders consistently get one of the most brutal schedules on the slate.

2021, on paper, does not appear to be much different. Some of the seeming randomizations of the schedule were removed with the rotating divisions both in and out of conference beginning formally in 2002. Yet, there has been historic “luck” in favor of the NFL’s glamour teams. For example, the San Francisco 49ers of the early to mid-1990s somehow played the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers three consecutive years (1992, 1993, 1994) despite winning 10, 14, and 10 games.

This year, the defending world champion Buccaneers have either the easiest or at worst, the 3rd easiest schedule in the league. While parity does exist in the NFL in ways it does not in the other two major sports (with all due respect to the National Hockey League), not sure that exactly makes a lot of sense. But I digress. The Raiders schedule, on the surface, is once again daunting and will pose a challenge to a franchise trying desperately to make its second postseason berth since Super Bowl XXXVII 18 years ago.


Let us start with the bad.


Raiders vs Patriots
Photo Credit: KTNV

The first three games out the chute are not a lot of fun. Monday Night Football as the first game with Raider Nation in tow is going to be an awesome opening week. Not so awesome is our defensive tasked with stopping Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Gus Bradley will be earning his check from the jump.

If the Raiders do not win a game, they will almost certainly be underdogs in, they will face the specter of going 0-2 as they travel to Pittsburgh to play the always tough Steelers. For all of the success the Raiders have had surprisingly at home in the Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin era (literally never lost in Oakland), the now Las Vegas Raiders have only won in Pittsburgh once since 1981. Shoutout to Doc B, aka Bruce Gradkowski, for one of the better memories of the 2000s.

Then that is followed up by another home date with the Miami Dolphins. The Raiders and Dolphins played a fantastic game which crystallized for me the Derek Carr experience in one five-minute span. Carr makes a great play which puts the Raiders in the lead, only for the defense to allow Miami to drive down the field like a laser through butter.

Then, Carr does everything but turn the power off in Allegiant Stadium, leading the team to a lead with 19 seconds left and Miami having no timeouts. And yet, the defense somehow manages to squander that obvious situation in the most “Raider Ass” fashion I have seen since the time before it. Yet somehow, that is Carr’s fault. Anyway, that is three teams that all won 10 or more games to start the season. Brutal. The silver (and black) lining, of course, is that two games are at home.


So that is the bad. How about the good?


Raiders vs Chiefs
Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Well, immediately the first thing I noticed was, we don’t have to deal with the Ketchup and Mustard Brigade (aka the Kansas City Chiefs) coming off of yet another bye week. Like I said, the schedule makers make it hard to remain logical when the Chiefs somehow received a bye week in four of the last five years before playing the Raiders. Just another happy coincidence. Well, not this year. Instead, Derek Carr has another shot at truly getting the Arrowhead monkey off his back in front of an expected full house and in December.

Couple the Chiefs road game with the following week’s road game in Cleveland, and that is the only potential for bad weather the Raiders will deal with in 2021. And let us be honest, not many of us knew what graupel was until last season’s game in Cleveland, which almost certainly benefitted the Raiders defense. The only other full-fledged East Coast trip is to New Jersey to play the New York Giants, and that is after a bye week.

Another positive is the four primetime games, giving the franchise yet another opportunity to play in front of a national audience. I am always in favor of big games in big places. Perhaps none will be bigger than Thanksgiving Day in Dallas against America’s supposed team, the Cowboys. This will not be like 2013, where the team as constructed had little chance of winning. That should be a great game to watch with hopefully some actual stakes.


And now, let’s get to the brass tacks.


If this team is able to do what it has done the last two years, the key will be how they play the last six weeks of the season. After 2019 and 2020, the Raiders were 6-4. They went 1-5 in 2019 and 2-4 in 2020 to end those seasons. Well, with an additional game, I am putting the onus on the last seven weeks.

That looks like this:


Nov. 25 at Dallas Cowboys (Thanksgiving Day) 1:30 PM CBS

Dec. 5 vs. Washington Football Team 1:05 PM FOX

Dec. 12 at Kansas City Chiefs 10:00 AM CBS

Dec. 18 or 19 at Cleveland Browns TBD

Dec. 26 vs. Denver Broncos 1:25 PM CBS

Jan. 2 at Indianapolis Colts 10:00 AM CBS

Jan. 9 vs. Los Angeles Chargers 1:25 PM CBS


Let’s be real. When all is said and done, this will be the stretch that dictates if this team is a playoff team or mediocre. Yes, there are four playoff teams there. That is the point. If you can’t beat those teams late in the season, you don’t get to be among those teams in January. Period. It has been Jon Gruden’s Achilles heel his entire coaching career. Too many times, Gruden-led teams in Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Las Vegas have faded in late November/December. If he plans on finally putting this franchise back in the postseason, that trend has to change. Otherwise, the seat actually might start to warm up on him.


I personally don’t make predictions for obvious reasons. Who had the 2020 Raiders winning in Kansas City but losing by 37 to the Atlanta Falcons? Nobody.


The Raiders Realist
Graphic Credit: Trisha LaCoste / Franchise Sports Media

Because the NFL is a week-to-week league, you cannot handicap injuries or any other number of variables in spring. But I will organize the home games in terms of desirability from my point of view from top to bottom as a fan.

So in reverse order.

9. vs. Cincinnati/November 21st. Assuming the Bengals offensive line has not turned Joe Burrow into that heap Beetle Bailey used to look like in the comics, seeing him and Ja’Marr Chase would be kind of interesting. But this is by far the least compelling game for me.

8. vs. Philadelphia/October 24th. The Jalen Hurts experience. Devonta Smith. The Eagles are my godfather’s team, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for them. It will be interesting to see if their fans travel as well as they did against the Chargers in 2019.

7. vs. Washington/December 5th. The Football Team. Dan Snyder, just name them the Red Tails and be done with it. Great test for the redone Raiders offensive line against arguably the best front four in the league.

6. vs. Miami/September 26th. Thankfully, Ryan Fitzpatrick and his no-look passes won’t be anywhere to be found. And that is a relief, considering he has dominated the Raiders in multiple uniforms. It will be a very good test against a very solid Dolphins club after what should be two physical and emotional games against the Ravens and Steelers to start the year.

5. vs. Los Angeles/January 9th. This could very well be for a playoff spot. And payback is owed to the Chargers after blowing the game against them at Allegiant Stadium last year, which officially eliminated the 2020 team from postseason contention.


The Raiders Realist
Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

4. Denver/December 26th. I have this here because it is right after Christmas. It is the Broncos who I loathe no matter how good or bad their record is. But of course, the unending rumors of a certain Jeopardy! hosting, discount double-checking, MVP quarterback possibly playing for them makes this a potentially spectacular matchup.

3. Chicago/October 10th. Welcome, Khalil Mack. Need I say more?

2. Baltimore/September 13th. Clearly, this game will be the most emotional. Monday Night Football. The first game that counts with fans in the building. Bright lights, big city, Baltimore Ravens. Ticket prices are already through the roof, so thank goodness for the 4K TV. This one is going to be fun.

1. Kansas City/November 14th. C’mon, was there any other choice? The dreaded Chiefs, led by Patrick Mahomes and company. On Sunday night. NBC can only hope this game is anywhere close as good as the one from last year. Raiders fans can only hope the late game defense is anywhere close to okay. This is the kind of game that deserves a spot on the marquee in Las Vegas. Let’s go!


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CJ Baldwin – Franchise Sports Media

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