The Raiders’ first season in Las Vegas will be a prominent storyline in the NFL. The league and its TV partners made sure of that on Thursday.
The Raiders will be featured four times in prime-time nationally televised games, the first on Monday night, Sept. 21, against the New Orleans Saints in the Raiders’ first regular-season game at the new $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium. The three other games also will be in Las Vegas.
The NFL TV schedule made two things clear: The league is eager to begin featuring Las Vegas and everything the city has to offer, including the new stadium. And the third season into coach Jon Gruden’s return, it’s anticipated that he will field a team worthy of ample national exposure.
Those were the big takeaways when the NFL announced its 2020 schedule for a season it hopes isn’t delayed or off -limits to fans in the stands because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Raiders open Sept. 13 at the Carolina Panthers, a team with a new coach (Matt Rhule) and new quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), before embarking on a four-game stretch against teams that reached the playoffs last season.
The matchup with quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” is one of three prime-time home games featuring elite quarterbacks.
In Week 7 on Oct. 25 — following their bye week — the Raiders host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”
Four weeks later, on Nov. 22, the Raiders host Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs on “Sunday Night Football.”
The Raiders’ four prime-time games are the most in franchise history. They conclude that stretch with a game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 17 on “Thursday Night Football.” That game, which will be televised on Fox, NFL Network and potentially Amazon, could feature Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft.
It’s also a chance for Allegiant Stadium and the Raiders’ new fan base to create a home-field advantage, assuming fans are allowed to attend.
“I’m very excited for Vegas Raiders fans to help us,” Gruden said.
The Raiders will make five trips to the Eastern time zone. After the opener at Carolina, they will travel to New England in Week 3 and to Cleveland in Week 8. In Weeks 12 and 13, they will make cross-country trips to Atlanta and then the New York Jets.
The Raiders finished their last season in Oakland 7-9, losing five of their final six games.
They added 12 players in free agency, including starting linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, along with a seven-man draft class led by speedy Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs.
The Raiders will get their first look at Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 5 at Kansas City. The remainder of the home schedule consists of the Buffalo Bills in Week 4, the Denver Broncos in Week 10, the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14 and the Miami Dolphins in Week 16.
The rest of the road schedule consists of visits to the Chargers in Week 9 and at Denver to finish the season Jan. 3.
The Raiders open the exhibition season with two road games — at the Seattle Seahawks and then at the San Francisco 49ers. It will be the first preseason game between the 49ers and the Raiders since 2011, when fan violence ended the annual exhibition series. They have since met twice in the regular season.
The Raiders close the preseason with games against the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams.