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On Thursday evening, the NFL officially unveiled its full 17-week schedule for all 32 teams for 2018. Aside from the guaranteed matchups with divisional opponents, the schedule release is always interesting for looking ahead to cross-conference games, prime-time matchups and the opening games of the season.
For the Oakland Raiders, the 2018 schedule is definitely a few notches down in difficulty from 2017, with the strength of this year's games ranked 29th in the league for SOS. This is a welcome sight for Jon Gruden's new coaching staff and does have the potential to set up for a playoff run if things go smoothly on the field once September rolls around.
However, this does not mean that the schedule lacks any intriguing matchups that fans should be thrilled about and looking forward to. Here are the five best games for the Raiders in 2018:
While the 49ers started 2017 as one of the worst teams in the NFL with a 1-10 start, former heir apparent to Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo took the reigns late in the season and went 5-0 as a starter to help the Niners finish with a 6-10 record. For his performance and giving them hope for what the future could hold, 49ers brass awarded Jimmy G with a 5-year/$137 million contract.
With brighter days supposedly on the horizon for the Niners, Oakland will travel to Santa Clara to face-off with its Bay Area brethren on Thursday Night Football. Both of these teams could be surprisingly good, so even casual NFL fans should have this date circled on their calendars. It's just a shame that Michael Crabtree isn't still a part of the Raiders so that he could meet Richard Sherman once more.
Not much needs to be said about why Raiders fans will be intrigued by this one. It will be the first meeting of the year between these AFC West foes, with neither fanbase forgetting the really, really dumb things that went down the last time the Raiders hosted KC.
The Chiefs would get the last laugh with a 26-15 victory at Arrowhead during the other meeting as they went on to secure the West (I won't be petty and mention what happened in their playoff game, though). The rivalry goes back to the days of the old AFL and has only intensified in recent years. This should be a fun one.
The Raiders will take on the LA Rams to open up the regular season so of course this game makes the list. However, there's more than just opening day exciting that makes this game one of the most important of the year.
This will be a benchmark of just how good Gruden's new look Raiders will be against some of the league's toughest competition. The Rams look to build off the success they found during the inaugural season of the Sean McVay Era and are projected to be one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Rams not only possess a dynamic offense with Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, but have a terrifying defense anchored by Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. If Oakland can pull the upset in Week 1, will it be a good omen of things to come?
The Raiders will face the Steelers for a primetime NBC Sunday Night Football showdown that may have some playoff implications come December. Like the Chiefs, the Steelers are an opponent that the Raiders have history with going back decades, with the two franchises involved in some key games in NFL history.
The name value, alone, should be enough to generate interest here, but if the Raiders are in the playoff hunt against a team like Pittsburgh who should have the firepower to make yet another playoff appearance, the consequences of this game could be major for the AFC postseason picture.
It's time to head across the pond for a showdown in our Mother Country as the game to look forward to the most in the regular season takes place in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against the Seahawks. This will be the third consecutive season that the Raiders have played an international game (with a game in Mexico the last two years) and the second time Oakland has ventured to the United Kingdom, the other appearance being a 38-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins in 2014.
This game would carry enough weight on its own if it took place in the U.S., but these two West Coast squads should put on a fine show for the North London audience. Like one of Oakland's other NFC West opponents, the Rams, the Seahawks should provide a big test of where the Raiders are in Gruden's first season.