Oakland Raiders Post-Bye Notebook: Looking ahead

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Oct 18, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) reacts after an incomplete pass in the fourth quarter during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

1. Take Advantage of the Schedule

The Raiders have the luck of coming out of the bye with the easiest away game on their schedule: the Chargers in San Diego. While the Chargers are a talented team that has more often than not beaten the Raiders over the past 12 years, this game is still a very manageable road trip for the Raiders. San Diego is only a two hour flight from Oakland, in the same time zone, and the game is usually heavily attended by Raiders fans, often seeming almost like a ninth home game for the Raiders, especially when the Chargers are struggling, as they are this year.

The Chargers are also very banged up and one dimensional. Just this past Sunday, against the Green Bay Packers, Philip Rivers had the game of his life, throwing for over 500 yards, but the team managed to scrape together a mere 20 points and couldn’t run the ball effectively. The Packer defense behaved much like the Raiders defense has through five: giving up massive chunks of yards through the air, but tightening up in the red zone and not getting beaten up too badly on the ground. And the Packer offense did just enough to win by scoring 27 points, a point total the Raiders managed to meet or exceed in both wins so far this year.

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The Chargers will also perhaps be missing wideout Keenan Lewis, who left the game with a groin injury on Sunday after catching 14 passes for 157 yards. The Chargers are also down almost their entire starting offensive line, and the Raiders have figured out how to finish pass rushes over the past three games. This is an entirely winnable road test for the Raiders that could put the season back on track.

It will get somewhat tougher after facing the Chargers. The Raiders face three teams with (as of today) winning records in a row: first a home game against the now 4-1 Jets and then a road game against the now 4-2 Steelers before coming home to face the now 3-2 Vikings. While the Jets and Steelers may not be as good as their records suggest, the Vikings appear to be a legitimate test. The Raiders did luck out, and get two of these three matchups at home, however.

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  • The Raiders then hit the soft part of the schedule: three straight against the Lions, Titans and Chiefs, whose combined records as of today are 3-14. The Raiders play on the road at both Detroit and Tennessee, but can realistically hope to win both of those games against those two teams. The Raiders then get the struggling Chiefs at home. This three-game stretch has the potential to turn into the first three-game win streak we’ve seen from the Raiders since 2011 – which was also a stretch of two away games and one home game.

    The Raiders will have to go face Denver on the road after this stretch, which will be a tough out, though with Peyton Manning’s play so far, it’s hard to imagine the Broncos keeping up their winning pace. But if the Raiders can eat heartily on a somewhat forgiving part of the schedule, they could take a .500 record or above into back to back tests at Denver and at home against Green Bay before getting the Chargers and Chiefs again to end the year.

    Of course, they play the games for a reason, and in the NFL, anyone can win or lose, but it certainly seems that if the Raiders are going to make a move toward finishing .500 or better, it will need to rest on piling up a strong showing over the next seven weeks.

    Next: Post Bye Notebook: Rediscover the Offense