Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders to be tested early by Rams, Broncos, road

Jon Gruden returns to Oakland to take over a Raiders team that has just one playoff appearance since 2002. Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

The NFL has released its 2018 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the Oakland Raiders.

Breakdown: It will be like Jon Gruden never left ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth. Almost. The Raiders open the season on MNF against the suddenly formidable Los Angeles Rams -- it is one of four prime-time games for the Raiders in 2018 -- just a few weeks after the teams meet in the preseason. Four of the Raiders’ first six games are away from Oakland, including the Week 6 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks in London. Brutal. In fact, the Raiders will travel the most miles in the NFL this season, 31,716, per ESPN Stats & Information. If the reloading Raiders can reach the bye at 3-3, that would be an accomplishment and a good jumping-off point given how the schedule evens out, what with Oakland being tied for the fourth-easiest strength of schedule in the league. Still, per ESPN Stats & Information, the Raiders are the only team with three short road weeks. That's the number of weeks with fewer than seven days rest and the game is on the road, including neutral-site games such as Oakland being the "host" in London.

Familiarity breeds contempt? Yeah, we know all about the AFC West and how every team in the division has a certain disdain for every other team in the division. But check out Weeks 4 and 9 on the Raiders’ slate. The Raiders get a shot at former coach Hue Jackson and his Cleveland Browns, likely on the grass at the Oakland Coliseum on Sept. 30. Jackson has not been seen around these parts since he famously shredded his team following the 2011 season-ending loss, all but declared himself Emperor of Silver and Blackdom and was fired by incoming general manager Reggie McKenzie. Counting his last five games in Oakland, Jackson is a combined 2-35 as a head coach. Then, on a Thursday night in Santa Clara, the Raiders play the Bay Area-rival 49ers in a stadium many Oakland fans wish the Raiders had shared so they could stay in the Bay, rather than move to Las Vegas by 2020. Alas, a cute Twitter war has broken out with the Raiders pledging allegiance to the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and the San Jose Sharks jumping in with the Niners in advance of that Stanley Cup playoff series between the Knights and Sharks.

A cold finish: Cincinnati and Kansas City in December? That does not sound exactly appealing to a warm-blooded Californian. But that’s where the Raiders will play two of their final three games. New Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will have the blueprint on the Bengals, no doubt, but it simply has the feel of a trap game for Oakland with emotional home games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in prime time, no less, and the Denver Broncos surrounding the ho-hum Bengals. And Kansas City? Well, the Chiefs own Derek Carr at Arrowhead Stadium, so he would be wise to study up on how Gruden essentially saved his job the first go-round with a come-from-behind overtime victory at the Chiefs on the last day of the 1999 season. Gruden’s job won’t be at stake this time around, but the difference between finishing with a winning record, going 8-8 or a losing mark might be on the line in the 2018 season finale. In the cold.

Strength of schedule: T-29th, .473

Raiders' Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Monday, Sept. 10, Los Angeles Rams, 10:20 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Denver, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Miami, 1 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, Cleveland, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, Seattle, 1 p.m.

  • Week 7: BYE

  • Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, Indianapolis, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 9: Thursday, Nov. 1, at San Francisco, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, Kansas City, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, Pittsburgh, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

  • Week 16: Monday, Dec. 24, Denver, 8:15 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.