The Raiders have a tough schedule this season, and it gets started early on. In week three the Raiders have their home opener against the New York Jets, a playoff team last year and one of the tougher teams in the NFL. Hue Jackson knows this, and in a Q&A session on Friday, he was candid about the importance of the matchup.
Said Hue Jackson:
“I think everyone will look to the Jets game, our home opener, because they’ve been in the AFC Championship game for the last two years. It would be a measuring stick because that division houses the New England Patriots who we play the very next week. They are a very strong division and if we intend on being the football team I know we intend to be, those are the teams you have to beat.”
The Jets didn’t win the AFC East division last season, the Patriots did. But the Jets exacted their revenge on their division rivals when they went to New England and knocked the Patriots out of the playoffs.
Playing the two heavyweights in consecutive weeks so early in the season will be a tough test for the Raiders. If Oakland comes out of those two games over .500, that could springboard them to greater heights for the rest of the season.
If they lose both of those games, it would be just what everyone expects of the upstart young Raiders. Losing those two games would only be truly devastating, however, if they were resounding losses. If they can stay competitive, they could learn a lot from both matchups and come out okay.
The Raiders took great strides last season but even after going undefeated in the division, they went just 2-8 outside of it. This is another area of improvement Jackson touched upon on Friday:
“We need to get better. We understood how to play the teams in our division, obviously that’s well documented. We need to continue that dominance, that’s what we want to continue to do. But we also need to learn how to defeat the teams outside our division. That comes with poise, that comes with understanding, that comes with playing intelligently, and that comes with making sure we understand that winning in the division doesn’t just rest in winning in our division. It also rests in winning outside of the division because there are teams that our division opponents are going to play also. We need to be prepared to defeat them.”
That goal will start in week two in Buffalo and continue in weeks three and four when the Raiders come home to play the Jets and Patriots. But first, the Raiders will open the season on Monday night with a chance to continue their streak against the division foe Denver Broncos.