The Las Vegas Raiders are in no position to overlook or underestimate any of their 2021 opponents. Nevertheless, there are three opponents that warrant special consideration with the official schedule soon to be released.
This is an important year for Las Vegas to prove to the NFL and their fans that they are contenders. They have filled their needs in free agency, the draft, and hired Gus Bradley to help command the defense. While the team has suffered late-season collapses, fans continue to have patience in hopes the ship will get turned around.
If the Raiders would like to return to their long-overdue glory days, there are three opponents that they must keep their eyes on this upcoming season.
Who should the Raiders be circling?
Kansas City Chiefs (Home & Away)
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way here. The Chiefs have been the top team in the AFC with elite talent on the field and the sidelines. Being in the same division, history had been one-sided against the Raiders until last year. Splitting the season series may not be great, but it cannot be denied that there was some very entertaining football in those games. Las Vegas has to play even better than that on both sides but especially defense. These games will be worthy tests of how much an impact Gus Bradley can have for the defense. Winning the AFC West is a stretch even with an optimistic attitude but it’s not an excuse to settle for less. If things go wrong, what’s the point of calling this a rivalry?
Baltimore Ravens (Home)
Another team that will be a serious contender for years is the Ravens led by Lamar Jackson. This team might have some issues with consistency on offense but it’s still intimidating nonetheless. Jackson can hurt you in all sorts of ways with his arms and legs which will be a challenge for the defense. The newly revamped O-line will be put against the test with Baltimore’s sturdy defensive line. If they fail, that will spell instant trouble for Derek Carr as he still has issues with keeping the ball in possession under pressure. Jon Gruden will have to prove himself as an offensive guru as well and be prepared to make adjustments which have been a weakness for him in his second tenure as the head coach. The AFC North will be tough in general for Vegas but the Ravens will be the biggest challenge.
Chicago Bears (Home)
The first thing fans think of when seeing the Bears is the infamous Khalil Mack trade. Raider Nation will never have a unanimous opinion on who won the trade but this can sway some minds. The Raiders won their last game in 2019, 24-21. Mack had a quiet game while Josh Jacobs, whose draft selection is connected to the trade, scored two touchdowns. Chicago is looking to change their offensive issues after drafting quarterback Justin Fields. Chicago’s defense can’t be ignored in this contest either. They’re still a formidable force with Mack leading that unit.
Something that all these matchups have in common is that they’re all home games. The Raiders were 2-6 at home last year and will need to improve that record if they wanna keep the fans in Vegas happy. Beating these teams will certainly improve those chances.
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*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal