Identifying must-win contests for the Raiders during the upcoming season.
Week 7 vs Houston
Some may read this and think, “Texans?”. With this one, it isn’t about the Raiders’ opponent as much as it is the timeframe of their schedule.
Las Vegas plays at Kansas City in week 5, then heads into their bye week. Afterward, the Silver and Black pick things back up with the Texans. Reading that, some may argue Kansas City’s week-5 contest is more of a must-win game, as the team would effectively head into their bye with momentum. I heavily disagree with this.
I don’t doubt Raider Nation would appreciate anything more than their team heading into Missouri and walking out with a win over their division rivals, but this hardly constitutes for a must-win. The Chiefs are not only division rivals, but have a current 4x AFC Championship Game appearance streak on their hands. You’d love to win this matchup, of course, but if you don’t, you understand why.
Back to the game against the Texans.
In recent history, the bye has not been kind to the Raiders. Not only has Las Vegas not won a contest directly after the bye since ’16 (against Houston, ironically enough), but the Silver and Black are a combined 19-30 in post-bye faceoffs through the last five-seasons.
It’s not that the Raiders have midseason collapses – A popular misconception we’ll discuss another time – but rather a lack of momentum building to end a season strong.
In fairness, Las Vegas’ bye opponents have been ones to be feared in more years than not during this time period. The ’17 season included the Super Bowl attending Patriots, ’19 was the 13-3 Packers, and ’20 hosted the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
The Raiders have a chance to secure momentum post-bye, potentially achieving a feat the team hasn’t accomplished in half of a decade – Not only because this roster is better than any the Raiders have put together since, but thanks to the chance to play a rebuilding team who finished 4-13 just last year. If Las Vegas can take advantage here, they’ll head to New Orleans with some fire, before a favorable matchup against Jacksonville.