A year after making the playoffs for the first time since 2016, the Raiders did something unconventional: they shook things up. Sure, Derek Carr, Maxx Crosby, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow are all back, but organizationally the Raiders have a brand new front office and head coach — not to mention a couple of new toys.
Offensively, the Raiders went all in on the best receiver in football: Davante Adams, while on the defensive side, they added future Hall of Famer Chandler Jones to rush opposite Crosby. On paper, a 10-7 season followed up by a coaching upgrade, the addition of two all-pros, and quarterback stability seems like a sure-fire return to the playoffs, but in 2022 things aren’t that simple.
For starters, the Raiders reside in the most challenging division in football — giving them stiff competition for the postseason and one of the most challenging schedules in the league. Not only that but making sense of their 2021 season isn’t easy.
On the one hand, the Raiders navigated the Jon Gruden scandal and the Henry Ruggs situation — meaning off-the-field things should be infinitely smoother this year. On the other hand, the Raiders were among the “luckiest” teams in the league last year, winning seven games by less than a touchdown or less and having a negative point differential (-65) on the season.
So… what gives? Maybe these cancel each other out, and the Raiders win 10 games again? Or is it possible that the off-the-field stuff united them in a way that was somehow helpful? Or maybe Derek Carr’s clutch gene is sustainable, and those close wins aren’t going the way of regression to the mean in 2022?
Lots of questions out there, and as we know, there’s only one way to answer them: on the field. So, having looked at the schedule, let’s break things down and make some predictions…
(Note: last year’s predictions nailed the 10-7 record, nailed the playoff appearance, and nailed the winner-gets-in dynamic present in the Week 18 game against the Chargers!)
Week 1: @ Chargers, WIN
We all know this trip to Los Angeles is going to feel like a home game, and while I put no stock in the preseason results, the Raiders do seem to be firing on all cylinders. The extra week of preseason will help, and with J.C. Jackson questionable, I think the Raiders can pick up where last season left off.
Week 2: Cardinals, WIN
No DeAndre Hopkins is a problem for Arizona, and I just don’t think that team is very good. The Raiders’ home opener sends the fans home happy with another win and a 2-0 start.
Week 3: @ Titans, LOSS
Derek Henry is probably still healthy at this point in the year, and so a road game in Tennessee is a bit too much for me to feel confident about.
Week 4: Broncos, WIN
I’ve got Denver finishing fourth in the division this year, as I think 2022 Russell Wilson isn’t as good as 2016 Russell Wilson. He’ll be fine, and there’s talent here, but I think the Raiders beat them at home in Week 4.
Week 5: @ Chiefs (Monday Night Football), LOSS
Yes, Tyreek Hill is gone, but Patrick Mahomes is the only name that matters in Kansas City. I like the Chiefs to be really good this season, and a Monday Night in Kansas City isn’t a friendly setting.
Week 6: Bye
The early bye isn’t ideal, but you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt.
Week 7: Texans, WIN
The Texans will be competitive, but they still stink. Off a bye, this is an absolute must-win.
Week 8: @ Saints, LOSS
Wanted to pick a win here as the Saints are yet another team I’m lower on than the public, but a 10 a.m. game on the road out east is never easy, and I think the Raiders lose a nail-biter.
Week 9: @ Jaguars, WIN
Playing in New Orleans at 10 a.m. the week before makes this game easier on the Raiders, and because of that, I think they go in and get a big win. The Jaguars won’t be a laughingstock again this year, however, so don’t write this one in pen.
Week 10: Colts, LOSS
We need some more losses somewhere, and I think Matt Ryan is a huge upgrade over Carson Wentz for the Colts. Still lots of talent here, not to mention a motivated Gus Bradley and Yannick Ngakoue.
Week 11: @ Broncos, WIN
In Vegas, in Denver — doesn’t matter. If you don’t want to finish fourth, you’ve got to beat the Broncos.
Week 12: @ Seahawks, WIN
Geno Smith or Drew Lock? Win.
Week 13: Chargers, LOSS
I think the Raiders split with the Chargers this year and so if they win in Week 1, it means they have to lose in Week 13. Thems the rules.
Week 14: @ Rams (Thursday Night Football), LOSS
Two road games in Los Angeles make for a great schedule if you’re the Raiders, but unfortunately, both teams who play there are really, really good. The Rams will be in a rhythm at this point, and Aaron Donald might kill Derek Carr if the offensive line hasn’t improved dramatically.
Week 15: Patriots (Sunday Night Football), WIN
The Patriots are another team I don’t love, as I think Mac Jones is overrated and that roster is bereft of talent. Plus, McDaniels is going to want to beat his old boss, so I think this is a comfortable win on national television.
Week 16: @ Steelers (Saturday), WIN
Don’t like playing Pittsburgh late in the year if Kenny Pickett has gotten his legs under him, but still think the Raiders are more talented than the Steelers. It helps this isn’t a morning game either, even if the Sunday Night/travel across the country/play Saturday isn’t ideal.
Week 17: 49ers, LOSS
This Raiders team isn’t going to win every game, and so even if we don’t like it, we do need to find some losses. I like Trey Lance, and late in the year, he should be dialed in, so this is a tough loss at home.
Week 18: Chiefs, WIN
Maybe the Chiefs have clinched everything and are resting dudes, giving the Raiders a comfortable win on their way into the playoffs. Regardless, at home, in Week 18, I like how this one shakes out.
Final Record: 10-7
I think all the weirdness of last year cancels itself out, while the organizational and roster upgrades allow the Raiders to keep pace with the improved division (and conference) around them. 10-7 gets them back into the playoffs, where hopefully, this time around, their offense won’t stall out in the red zone.