By Sam McPherson
Thanks to the San Diego Chargers victory over the Denver Broncos in Week 15 of the 2013 NFL season, and their own loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Oakland Raiders know their slate of opponents for the 2014 season already. That’s because the 4-10 Raiders are officially the bottom dwellers of the AFC West division, with no chance of catching the 7-7 Chargers in the final two weeks of the year.
For any NFL team, of course, six games on the schedule are fixed every season: three home and three away against the other teams in their division. For Oakland, obviously, that means road trips to Denver, Kansas City and San Diego. The Raiders also get to host those three teams at the O.co Coliseum, in return.
But beyond those “fixed” scheduled contests every year, there are rotating divisional matchups for both conferences — and the matchups against teams that finish similarly in their own divisions.
For 2014, the AFC West is matched with the AFC East and the NFC West. Thus, the Raiders will play all four teams in each division, half on the road and half at home.
Oakland’s home games against the AFC East are against the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins next year, but the interesting note here is that the Dolphins game will be in London, England, on September 28, so the Raiders will miss their usual O.co edge with the Black Hole when they face Miami.
Road games, then, for Oakland’s intraconference divisional rotation in 2014, are at New England and New York. It will be the second year in a row the Raiders have to travel east to face the Jets, coincidentally. This year, the two teams played each other since both finished third in their respective divisions in 2012 (see below).
The interconference divisional rotation gives Oakland home games against the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers. The latter is an interesting matchup, of course, as the 49ers will be christening their new digs in Santa Clara next season, and a lot of financially-displaced fans of the team certainly will flock to the Coliseum to see their favorite team (as this same effect is still seen when the baseball Giants take on the A’s at the Coliseum).
That also means the Raiders have road games in Seattle and St. Louis next year. The Seahawks, a former AFC West team for many seasons and a sometime nasty rival of the Raiders, haven’t lost on their home turf in 14 contests now, since second-year quarterback Russell Wilson became the starter in 2012. And of course, the matchup with the Rams is amusing, as both team occupied the city of Los Angeles together for awhile in the distant past (1982-95).
So that takes care of 14 opponents for 2014, leaving just two left on the schedule: a home date against the Houston Texans and a road contest at Cleveland against the Browns. Both the Texans and the Browns are fourth-place teams this year, as well, Houston in the AFC South and the Browns in the AFC North.
The Raiders beat the Texans this year in Houston as a part of Oakland’s intraconference divisional rotation with the AFC South, and for those Raiders fans who remember, Oakland played a very memorable playoff game in Cleveland way back in 1980 on their way to a win in Super Bowl XV.
So as fans of the Silver and Black prepare for this weekend’s game against the Chargers, it’s good to keep an eye on next year’s opponents; every team in the AFC West is pretty good, and the NFC West may be the best division in the NFL. That’s 10 very difficult games right there for Oakland, and while the AFC East is often weak below the Patriots, one has to expect the Texans to bounce back next year.
That Cleveland game may be the “easiest” one on the schedule in 2014.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.