Oakland Raiders: Brutal Late Season Stretch Will Define 2017 Campaign

Nov 22, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio leads his team to the field before the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio leads his team to the field before the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders were presented with a nasty gift for last season’s success – the league’s fourth toughest schedule. But it’s a four game stretch late in the year that could define the entire season.

Given that they’ve been handed the league’s fourth toughest schedule, the Oakland Raiders aren’t going to have any easy outs during the 2017 campaign. It’s going to be a tough road to travel if they want to duplicate last season’s successful 12-4 record. But it’s the brutal, late season stretch, after their bye in week 10 that will define their entire year.

The early part of the season isn’t necessarily going to be easy – three of their first four games are on the road, after all. But over those four games, they’ll be facing teams with a combined win-loss record of 31-32-1. But they’ll be on the road against Tennessee, Washington, and Denver. Their lone home game in the first quarter of the season will see the New York Jets come to the East Bay.

Given the fact that their opponents have a combined winning percentage of .484, it’s crucial that the Raiders get the season off on the right foot. And while none of those games will necessarily be easy, that first quarter of the season is going to be the easiest stretch they’re going to have all season.

The Raiders have got to take advantage of that opening four weeks, because after that, they’ll have to square off with some better competition over the next five – Baltimore, the Chargers, Kansas City, Buffalo, and Miami.

While not exactly world beaters, those combined five opponents have a win-loss record of 42-38 – a .525 winning percentage.

It’s possible that if the Raiders can keep playing offense to the level they did last season, and kick their defense up a couple of notches, that they could be in very good shape after the season’s first nine games.

But it’s what happens after their bye that’s going to define the entire 2017 season.

After getting week 10 off, the Raiders will play the defending Super Bowl champ Patriots in Mexico City. After that, they’re home for the Broncos and Giants, take to the road to play Kansas City, come home to play host to Dallas, and then hit the road to close out the last two weeks of the season in Philadelphia and then in Los Angeles to play the Chargers.

Oakland’s final seven opponents for the year had a combined record of 71-41 in 2016. That’s a winning percentage of .633 – which makes for a tough second half of the season, to be sure. And while closing out the season with two games on the road – and three of your last four – is tough, no question. But it’s the five games directly after that week 10 bye that is going to define Oakland’s entire season.

For the Raiders, it’s very likely to be a make or break stretch of five games coming out of that bye.

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The Patriots, Broncos, Giants, Chiefs, and Dallas combined last year, for a record of 59-21 – that’s a winning percentage of .738, if you’re scoring at home.

And that’s the murderer’s row the Raiders will have to face coming out of their bye. Five games that will define Oakland’s season one way or another. If they can perform well over the first – and easier – portion of their schedule, and then come out of that hellish five game gauntlet after the bye 4-1, or maybe 3-2, they’re going to be in pretty good shape.

If they falter though, and come out of that five game stretch with a dismal record, it could spell trouble in terms of winning the division and/or earning a postseason berth.

Oakland has a tough draw in 2017, no matter which way you slice it. There won’t be any “easy” outs for them this year. But the first half of the season certainly has some very winnable games and sets up pretty nicely overall.

And it’s absolutely critical the Raiders take advantage of it. Because from week 11 on, the gauntlet they’re going to have to run if they hope to duplicate last season’s success and secure a postseason berth – if not a division crown – is going to be an absolute nightmare.

And that five game stretch immediately after the break – for the good, or for the ill – is going to define the 2017 campaign for the Silver and Black.