The Raiders haven't had a winning season since losing Super Bowl XXXVII to former Coach Jon Gruden and the Bucs. Another losing season in 2014 could spell the end for current coach Dennis Allen. Oakland's wins total is set at 5 on NFL odds.
Oakland's 2013 campaign actually started with a bit of promise. QB Terrelle Pryor was much better than expected and was a true weapon with his feet. The Raiders upset Pittsburgh in Oakland in Week 8 to improve to 3-4, which is pretty good of late for this once-proud franchise. However, then the wheels fell off as the Raiders would win just one more game, and finished on a six-game skid. Pryor regressed and was benched. Darren McFadden got hurt as usual. The Raiders were below average offensively (24th in points at 20.1 ppg) and on defense (29th in points at 28.3 ppg allowed, giving up the second-most points in team history). There was talk that Allen might be fired, but he survived despite an 8-24 mark in his two seasons. Another four-win season, and he will be looking for work.
Key Offseason Moves
For the first time in several offseasons, the Raiders weren't in salary-cap hell, and in fact had more money to spend than any other team. Yet Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, whose job is also on shaky ground, didn't do much at first. In fact, the Raiders lost their best offensive lineman (Jared Veldheer), best defensive lineman (Lamarr Houston) and leading rusher (Rashad Jennings) to free agency without making offers to any. In typical Raiders fashion, they signed Rams offensive tackle Rodger Saffold to a big contract, but then voided his deal when Saffold flunked a physical -- the Rams welcomed him back with open arms. McKenzie eventually got busy, but it appeared he signed guys past their prime, like Jaguars' running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Packers' receiver James Jones, Texans' defensive end Antonio Smith, 49ers' cornerback Carlos Rogers, Buccaneers' offensive tackle Donald Penn, Giants' defensive end Justin Tuck, and Steelers' linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
McKenzie did make a potentially shrewd trade in sending a sixth-round 2014 pick to Houston for quarterback Matt Schaub. He was considered a pretty good QB as recently as 2012 before imploding at the start of last season, losing confidence and his job. Schaub, who is only 32, should be an upgrade over what Oakland had last year. The team cut loose Pryor, trading him to Seattle. Because the Raiders have Schaub, they may not be forced to take a QB with the No. 5 overall pick and can fill one of many other needs.
2014 Schedule (all times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, at NY Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, Houston, 4:25 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, at New England, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, Miami, 1 p.m. (in London)
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, San Diego, 4:05 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Arizona, 4:25 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at Cleveland, 4:25 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, Denver, 4:05 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, at San Diego, 4:05 p.m.
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 20, Kansas City, 8:25 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, Buffalo, 4:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Denver, 4:25 p.m
Oakland has the toughest schedule in the NFL next season with an opponents' 2013 winning percentage of .578. That there are three other playoff teams in the Raiders' AFC West obviously played a big role there. They will have a total of nine games against postseason clubs.
It's fair to ask if Oakland will be a favorite in any games this season. It is +4.5 on NFL odds for Week 1 at the Jets. The Raiders were 1-7 last year on the road. One of those losses was in Week 14 at the Jets, 37-27. Oakland had to start third-string QB Matt McGloin in that one, and fourth-string running back Marcel Reece because of injuries. McGloin wasn't bad: 18 of 31 for 245 yards, two TDs and a pick. Reece rushed for 123 yards and a TD. It was the Raiders' 13th straight loss in games played in the Eastern time zone.
One of Oakland's four wins last year came against Week 2 opponent Houston, and it was the Raiders' only road victory: 28-23. It was also their final victory of the season. Schaub wasn't starting as Houston's quarterback by that game. It will be a challenge that three of the first four Raiders games will be played at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Oakland will travel more than any other team this season. The three-game stretch out of the bye might be the Raiders' best chance for any type of winning streak. After that, Oakland is likely to be a sizable dog in every game other than Week 16 at home against Buffalo. Perhaps the Broncos will have home-field advantage wrapped up in Week 17 and have nothing to play for against Oakland.
NFL free picks: 'Over' 5 wins (barely) at +105 on NFL odds. Schaub alone, assuming his mind is right, should be good for two more wins than last year's club had. Maybe the backfield duo of McFadden/Jones-Drew can be something if both can stay healthy.