The Oakland Raiders will face some of the best pass-catchers in the NFL this upcoming season but here’s a look at what they’ll face in their own division.
2017 Raiders’ outlook: AFC West receiving matchups
The 2017 Oakland Raiders are expected to be in the hunt for a Super Bowl appearance, but before they can get there, the schedule won’t do them any favors; in particular, here are the three AFC West matchups against the Silver and Black’s defense.
Los Angeles Chargers
Despite what many expect to be an improved Raiders’ pass defense, the Chargers will be giving the Raiders fits this upcoming season.
Led by quarterback Philip Rivers, the Chargers passing offense is filled with nightmare matchups for the defense from Travis Benjamin to tight end Hunter Henry. Benjamin torched the secondary in spite of a losing effort by his team in Week 5; seven catches, 117 receiving yards, and an impressive 16.71 yards per reception.
Henry for his part, showcased one the most glaring weaknesses the Raiders exhibited last season: Giving up big plays to tight ends. In the same Week 5 loss, Henry scored a touchdown while hauling in three catches amounting to 74 receiving yards. Furthermore and in their Week 13 game, Henry scored another touchdown to go with three catches for only 37 yards but the damage was done by giving up the score.
Kansas City Chiefs
Say what you want about Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, the fact is, the man gets it done against the Raiders. This upcoming season might not be any different even with the release of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Smith’s weapons made the Raiders defense pay last season, whether it was Travis Kelce across the middle or Tyreek Hill burning the secondary, it wasn’t pretty for the Silver and Black.
Like Henry, the Chiefs tight end (who was also a Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro last season) didn’t score against the Raiders but exposed the coverage regardless, with a total of eight receptions and 133 receiving yards. Rookie sensation Hill scored against the team in the Week 13 win while bringing down 66 receiving yards. Chris Conley also fared well against the Raiders even though he scored no touchdowns. He did two passes that went for 70 yards averaging 35.00 yards each so it’ll definitely be interesting to see how Conley develops with Maclin gone.
Jack Del Rio’s old team will continue to be in the hunt even with the loss of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, but what about the quarterback situation? It is uncertain how said situation will affect the offense at this moment, but the imposing receiving corps hasn’t changed.
Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Virgil Green make up a group that won’t be easy cover no matter who’s behind center. Thomas did well against the Silver and Black, catching nine passes and totaling 103 receiving yards, meanwhile, Sanders caught only five passes to go with 47 yards. Green didn’t blow up the stat line but he further helped display the Raiders weakness of being unable to cover the tight end; five receptions, 54 yards, and the all-important stat: A touchdown.
The pass defense is fully expected to show major improvement with the help of the impressive youth movement that’s happening with the team in general. The fan inside of all of us wants the Raiders to sweep all six division games but I don’t see it happening, even if they’re on a mission.
Prediction: AFC West Record for 2017 Oakland Raiders 4-2 (One SD Loss, One KC Loss)