The Raiders 2015 Schedule Review

2015_DS_schedulerelease_splashpageFor the first time in three years, I’m looking at the Raiders schedule on #NFLschedulereleaseday and thinking, “We’re definitely not going 0-16 this year!” The 2015 schedule is actually quite favorable for Oakland. Last year the Raiders traveled 10,000 more miles than any other team. This year, the Raiders have their first two games at home, don’t travel to the eastern time zone until week 9 and have a competent Quarterback! I’ll go through each game rank how excited I am.

Week 1: Cin @ Oak

The Return of Hue! Hue Jackson will definitely try to make Reggie McKenzie pay for unceremoniously firing him after the 2010 season. I’m sure McKenzie won’t forget Hue trading away all of McKenzies draft picks before he even got here.

Excitement level: 8/10

Week 2: Bal @ Oak

The Raiders will get to stay in Oakland to open the season, but will face two playoff teams from last year. Baltimore have definitely gotten weaker, losing Haloti Ngata, Torrey Smith and Gary Kubiak. I’m excited to see the new-look Raider’s front seven against a Raven’s run game that averaged 4.5 ypc last season.

Excitement level: 5/10

Week 3: Oak @ Cle

The first road game of the season for the Raiders is in the Dawg Pound. There are a lot of great match-ups in this one. Khalil Mack vs. Joe Thomas, Amari Cooper(?) vs. Joe Haden, Johnny Football vs. his urge to down a pint when he dives into the Dawg Pound and gets Coors spilled all over him!

Excitement level: 7/10

Week 4: Oak @ Chi

The Raider’s will head to the historic Soldier Field in week 4 to face a couple of former Broncos. John Fox had a lot of success against the Raiders during his time with Denver, but he doesn’t have Peyton Manning anymore. He has the opposite. Charles Woodson will hope to be on the receiving end of a couple of Jay Cutler ducks.

Excitement level: 7/10

Week 5: Den @ Oak

The first divisional opponent on the schedule will be the Broncos. Denver will enter the O.co with a new coach and a new scheme, but with the same quarterback. Peyton Manning hasn’t lost to the Raiders since joining the Broncos, and his arm will still be attached to his body by week 5.

Excitement Level: 6/10

Week 6: BYE

Great position for the Raiders to have a bye. The first 5 weeks could be tough for Oakland and this could be the perfect time to regroup.

Week 7: Oak @ SD

Coming out of the bye week, the Raiders have a short trip down south for their second divisional game. It’ll be an extra home game for the Raiders as Los Angeles Raider fans will travel well to San Diego. If the Chargers are stupid enough to trade Philip Rivers, Raiders fans might make up 100% of the crowd at Qualcomm come week 7.

Excitement Level: 8/10

Week 8: NYJ @ Oak

Todd Bowels brings the Jets and all of their DBs to Oakland for a week 8 matchup that may be a turning point for the Raiders season. We will learn all we need to know about Derek Carr in this game. If Carr can survive Revis Island, Cromartie Peninsula and Skrine Isthmus, the Raiders will know that he is their franchise QB.

Excitement Level: 8/10

Week 9: OAK @ Pit

The Raiders make their first trip to the dreaded eastern time zone in week 9 as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on Big Ben and the Steelers. After facing what may be the toughest secondary in the league, Carr, Cooper (?) and company will face a weak set of DBs in Pittsburgh.

Excitement Level: 7/10

Week 10: Min @ Oak

Possibly the two best QBs from the 2014 draft class will go head to head for the first time. The Raiders will be going against the best RB in the league (If Adrian Peterson stays). The best matchup for the Raiders will be the battles of the K(h)alils. The liability Matt Kalil will have his hands full with the Raider’s Khalil Mack.

Excitement Level: 9/10

Week 11: Oak @ Det

The last time these two teams met, Megatron went off and erased a 13 point deficit in the fourth quarter on his own. He may do the same thing with the current crop of CBs the Raiders are starting. TJ Carrie and DJ Hayden will have their hands full with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.

Excitement Level: 7/10

Week 12: Oak @ Ten

This is probably the best away game to go to for Raiders fans. Visit the Music City, do some Elvis stuff and possibly see the Raiders win! Unless, of course the Titans acquire Philip Rivers. But then you’ll get to see Rivers crying, so there’s that.

Excitement Level: 4/10

Week 13: KC @ Oak

These two division rivals don’t see each other until week 13. The Raiders front seven will have their hands full with Jamal Charles. He’s not only a weapon in the run game, but very dangerous in the screen game. Newcomers Curtis Lofton, Malcolm Smith and Dan Williams will have a chance to prove to the Raider Nation that they were worth the investments.

Excitement Level: 8/10

Week 14: Den @ Oak

If the Broncos don’t preserve Manning’s arm throughout the season, he may not have one in Oakland come week 14. The Raiders are younger than the Broncos and will have a much better chance defeating the defending AFC West champs in their second meeting. 

Excitement Level: 9/10

Week 15: GB @ Oak

Aaron Rodgers will return to where he played college ball. The only way the Raiders will be able to compete against the Packers will be by controlling the clock. With Latavius Murray, Roy Helu Jr. and (gulp) Trent Richardson leading the way, it’s hard to see that happening.

Excitement Level: 6/10

Week 16: SD @ Oak

On Christmas Eve, the Raiders will have their only primetime game of the season against the Chargers. Carr is 1-0 under the lights and looks to be the type of player that thrives for these kind of moments.

Excitement Level: 9/10

Week 17: Oak @ KC

The Raiders finish up the regular season in Kansas City. The offensive line will have to work hard to keep Carr clean as Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are the best pass rushing duo in the league. Could this game actually mean something for the Raiders?

Excitement Level: 9/10

I’m obviously very excited for the upcoming season and, like all fans of terrible teams, I’m looking at the schedule and thinking, “I could see us getting to 8-8…”

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Analyzing the Michael Crabtree Signing

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On Monday, the Oakland Raiders signed former San Francisco 49ers Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree to a one year deal. Many are calling the signing a “low-risk, high reward” deal, but we’ll look a little deeper at how Crabtree could hurt or help both the Raiders and himself.

Contract:

The Crabtree deal is for one year, $3 million, basically fully guaranteed. Crabtree will earn an additional $400,000 for 70 catches or 900 yards and $1.4 million for 100 catches or 1,400 yards. If all incentives are reached, Crabtree will earn $5 million for his one year deal.

Pros and Cons:

Needless to say, the Raiders and Raider Nation will be ecstatic if Crabtree reaches all of his incentives, but that is highly unlikely. No Raider receiver had more than 700 yards last year and James Jones led the team with only 73 catches. There is reason to believe that Crabtree and second year QB Derek Carr can be compatible. One of Carr’s best throws is the back shoulder fade. The throw requires the receiver to be able to make quick adjustments, locate the ball and often make a difficult catch. Crabtree has all of those abilities.

With Bill Musgrave coming over from Philadelphia to become the Raiders offensive coordinator, the Raiders may move to a hurry-up offense featuring more screens and slants. Crabtree has had success running these underneath routes because he is so shifty. He doesn’t have the speed to beat a corner deep, (that sound you hear is Al Davis turning in his grave) but his route running ability in tight windows is superb.

Speed is the main reason the receiver-needy Raiders took Darius Heyward-Bey instead of Crabtree in the 2008 NFL Draft. In case you didn’t know, Davis kind of liked speed. But speed is not the most concerning trait about Crabtree. His most concerning trait is that he is made of glass. Crabtree is injured a lot. He hasn’t missed a game after missing almost the entire 2013 regular season with an achilles injury, but he hasn’t been the same either. If he does not regain some of the explosiveness he showed in 2012, the signing will be seen as a bust.

With all that said, Crabtree’s attitude is what the Raiders should be most worried about. Whether it be his long rookie holdout, or training camp apathy, or complaining about his role in the offense, Crabtree has been a “diva.” This can be a very dangerous personality to have around a young, QB in Carr, who is looking to become the team’s leader. But, while this fire in Crabtree could blow up the team, it could also ignite Crabtree’s play on the field. Crabtree must know this is his last chance at a big contract in the NFL. If Crabtree’s agent is worth anything, he is showing Crabtree footage of great WRs (Terrel Owens, Randy Moss, etc.) that have been blackballed by the NFL because of their attitude problems.

Future:

The signing of Crabtree doesn’t change anything about the Raiders draft plans. They will still take a receiver with the No.4 overall pick and may take a slot guy in the third round. Crabtree will hope to be second on the depth chart behind the new rookie. If he doesn’t have any explosiveness left, he could wind up being the fourth option.

Projected Depth Chart: Wide Receiver:

X-Reciever: Rookie Round 1 (Amari Cooper/Kevin White)

Y-Receiver: Crabtree/ James Jones

Slot: Rookie Round 3 (Tyler Lockette?)

Reserve: Holmes, Butler, Thompkins