Although the 2018 NFL season is not even close to beginning, it is never too early to start looking at next season’s opponents. Following a dismal 6-10 season and a head coaching change, the Oakland Raiders are ready for a new start. This season, the Raiders will play three teams that made the playoffs in 2017. Of those three teams, only one team won a playoff game. Trying to evaluate a team before seeing their moves in the draft can seem premature but it can set the groundwork for predictions after the draft.
Los Angeles Rams
Since Jared Goff found his sea legs in the NFL, the Rams have been nearly unstoppable with a dominant offensive attack and a nearly immovable defense and will be a difficult opponent for any team (except the Eagles in the playoffs apparently).
Prediction: 24-10 Rams
Oakland split the season series with Denver last year, but one game was in Denver and without starting QB Derek Carr. Since last season, the Broncos have added QB Case Keenum to complete their offense. The games this season should be slightly less heated as both Aqib Talib and Michael Crabtree have left their respective teams. The Raiders and Broncos now match up quite equally on offense but at this point, Denver might have the advantage on defense.
Predictions: 24-17 Raiders (in Oakland)
23-20 Broncos (in Denver)
In the NFL, there are building teams and there are rebuilding teams. As of right now, the Dolphins appear to be waiting until the draft to make the decision of what team they are. Two missing pieces the Dolphins must address: Quarterback and Running back (unless they have decided to fully back Kenyan Drake).
Prediction: 28-10 Raiders
Last year, Cleveland became the first team since the 2008 Lions to complete a winless, 16-game season. With five draft picks in the first two rounds and free agent signings such as Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry, the Browns could a force to be reckoned with in 2018. However, the Raiders do have the offense to (at the very least) match the Browns with Carr, Cooper, and Nelson. With multiple defensive back, linebacker, and defensive lineman signings and with Gareon Conley scheduled to come back, the Raiders defense will be poised to outmatch the Browns offensive threats.
Prediction: 27-17 Raiders
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers have been one of the quieter teams in free agency so far. After finishing 9-7 last season and missing the playoffs due to a tiebreaker, the Chargers really do not have much to be complacent about. Because of this, expect the Chargers to try something sneaky for the draft. Last season, the Chargers swept the Raiders but history appears primed to reverse itself. One advantage the Raiders have is that both games against the Chargers will provide a home field advantage for the Raiders.
Predictions: 28-20 Raiders (in LA)
31-21 Raiders (in Oakland)
Seattle has been a confusing team the last few years. Now, the “Legion of Boom” is falling apart and Seattle still does not have a running back to take the starting spot from Mike Davis. The game will be played in London, nullifying any major home field advantage.
Prediction: 20-13 Raiders
The confusion surrounding Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts may trickle into the 2018 season as well. As of March 27, Andrew Luck started throwing again. While still in the early stages, this could show promise for the Colts’ 2018 season. However, as Indy’s offense may continue to gain strength, their defense is a liability and should be given a tough time with Oakland’s offensive threats.
Prediction: 24-10 Oakland
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers appear to be a building team heading into the 2018 season. They have laid the base of the team and now appear to be searching for pieces to complete it. The prediction depends on when the two teams meet, and in this case, the Raiders should take the “the earlier the better” outlook to this game.
Prediction: 31-24 Raiders
The Cardinals look to turn their season around with the addition of Sam Bradford and the return of David Johnson (barring another injury). The Cardinals’ defense is poised for a dominant season as well. The Raiders will need to figure something out to slow down the Bradford-Fitzgerald attack.
Prediction: 21-10 Cardinals
The Ravens always have potential to catch fire for a small stretch of games, but the success of the season will revolve around Joe Flacco. It will also be interesting to see how Michael Crabtree matches up against his old team
Prediction: 24-23 Raiders
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs started 5-0 last season before dwindling off to only win five of their next eleven games. The Raiders needed a 200-yard game from Amari Cooper and four plays in the final second to topple the Chiefs. Since the season, the Chiefs have let Alex Smith go and signed former Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin. As of right now, it would appear the Chiefs would have the fate of the team resting on second year QB Patrick Mahomes. Not having an experienced starter will hurt the Chiefs with their predictions.
Predictions: 35-28 Chiefs (in KC)
28-27 Raiders (in Oakland)
The Steelers are another dominant team with the potential to beat any team. The on-again off-again drama around Le’Veon Bell’s contract and Big Ben’s future durability are the two major questions of this team, but both appear to be on pace to be all set for the 2018 season.
Prediction: 28-13 Steelers
The Bengals bring a very solid offensive team to the table in 2018. The team also seems confident in Vontaze Burfict to be able to lead the defense and avoid suspensions.
Prediction: 38-34 Bengals
Overall Predicted Record: 10-6