The Las Vegas Raiders have made some steady improvements since bringing Jon Gruden back as head coach and Mike Mayock as general manager. But, for the process to come to fruition, the team has to make the playoffs this season.
This will be the fourth season with Gruden back on the sidelines. They made some big moves during the offseason to help shore up their defense, but some head-scratching ones with the offensive line.
The Raiders had no one but themselves for missing the postseason in 2020, as they lost some winnable games down the stretch of the season. Will they be able to avoid a similar outcome in 2021? Here are the five biggest games facing the Raiders on their 2021 schedule.
5. Week 3 vs. Miami Dolphins
This is a rematch of one of the wildest games of the 2020 season. The teams faced off in Week 16 in Las Vegas, with the Dolphins narrowly escaping with a 26-25 victory. The game had five scores in the final 4:01 of the game and Ryan Fitzpatrick subbed in to save the Dolphins’ offense.
This loss ended the Raiders’ 2020 playoff hopes. Las Vegas will have revenge on their minds as Miami will undoubtedly be one of the teams they are jockeying with throughout the season in the standings. Picking up the head-to-head win will be a big help when it comes to tiebreakers.
4. Week 17 @ Indianapolis Colts
This is another rematch game from 2020 that the Raiders will look to avenge. Indianapolis throttled Las Vegas, 44-27, in Week 14, setting the Raiders off on a three-game losing streak that effectively ended their playoff hopes.
The game last season was a home game for the Raiders, so they will be looking to return the favor this time around. This is another game that could have AFC Wild Card implications, as the Colts are one of several teams in the conference that have playoff aspirations.
3. Week 14 @ Kansas City Chiefs
Last season, the Raiders were the only team to trip up the Kansas City Chiefs when they were at full strength. Kansas City went 14-1 to start the regular season before resting multiple players in the regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, which they lost 38-21.
Picking up another late-season win in Arrowhead Stadium would be a great confidence booster for the Raiders. In 2020, this is when their season went into a tailspin. Will they be able to avoid history repeating itself in 2021?
2. Week 18 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
The loss that the Raiders suffered to the Chargers in overtime last season was a crushing defeat. Las Vegas received a great performance from backup quarterback, Marcus Mariota, and ran nearly seven minutes off the clock in overtime to kick their field goal. Then, the defense let them down and gave up a 75-yard drive, capped off by a one-yard Justin Herbert touchdown run.
The Raiders were that close to a 10-win season and potential playoff berth last season Las Vegas will need to handle business against teams such as the Chargers if they want to make the postseason in 2021.
1. Week 15 @ Cleveland Browns
The Raiders were able to defeat the Browns in an ugly, 16-6 game in 2020 that the weather drastically affected the offense in. Cleveland comes into this season riding high, so Las Vegas will have to be ready for this late-season matchup.
This is another game that will undoubtedly help shape the playoff picture in the AFC. The Raiders could cement their place in the standings with a victory over a Browns team that is projected to be very good in 2021.