Depending on how you determine NFL strength of schedule, the Raiders have either one of the league’s easiest 2020 slates or one of the toughest.
Based on its opponents’ winning percentage last season — which was .496 (127-129) — the Raiders have the NFL’s 12th-easiest schedule.
But based on their opponents’ projected 2020 season win totals, which amount to 136½ at the Westgate sportsbook, the Raiders have the league’s third-toughest slate.
“The win total over-unders for this year are definitely a way better barometer,” Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “If you use last year’s records, it’s silly. (For example), you’re counting Green Bay as a 13-3 team when they’re essentially lined at 9-7 (this coming season).”
Based on win totals, the New York Giants (138) have the NFL’s most difficult schedule, followed by the Atlanta Falcons (137½), the Raiders and the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, who are tied at 135½. The Indianapolis Colts (123) have the NFL’s easiest schedule, followed by the Tennessee Titans (126½), Los Angeles Chargers (128) and Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, who are tied at 128½.
Raiders’ toughest home slate
The Raiders have the league’s most difficult home schedule, with their eight Allegiant Stadium opponents totaling an NFL-high 71½ wins. That total breaks down like this: Kansas City Chiefs (11½), New Orleans Saints (10½), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9½), Buffalo Bills (9), Colts (9), Chargers (8), Broncos (8) and Miami Dolphins (6).
But that doesn’t mean bettors should automatically load up on the Raiders to go under its win total of 7½.
“It feels like people are making more and more of the schedule every year than they used to,” Salmons said. “I like to use the schedule as a baseline. Right now, we think the Patriots will win eight or nine games, but they could be a seven-win team or they could be an 11-win team. You don’t know.
“Don’t look at the schedule and say it’s too hard and they can’t win this many and you should go under their wins. It’s more than the schedule. It’s a new coach and a new system. … Every year, you get teams that go from four or five wins and win nine or 10 the next year.”
The San Francisco 49ers went from 4-12 in 2018 to 13-3 last season.
Raiders went over in 2019
The Raiders went from 4-12 in 2018, the first season of coach Jon Gruden’s second stint with the team, to 7-9 last season. They started 6-4 and eclipsed their win total of 6 despite a brutal schedule that included seven weeks between home games from Sept. 15 to Nov. 3.
“Everyone was down on the Raiders’ crazy schedule last year and they still went over their wins,” Salmons said.
The Westgate has posted lines on all 16 Raiders games. They are favored in only three games and a pick’em in three others. But Salmons said that could change quickly, especially if the Raiders win their season opener at Carolina and home opener against the Saints.
“Their power rating would go up three points and all of a sudden instead of being favored in three games, they’d be favored in 10 games,” he said.
Year of the quarterback
Even if the Raiders finish 6-10 or 7-9 next season, Salmons said the team dramatically has increased its talent level since Gruden returned in 2018 and traded linebacker Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears.
“The Mack trade will go down as a good trade (for the Raiders) just because of all the stuff they got from it and how they were able to spread money to different positions,” he said. “The Raiders will probably be a better team than last year, but it may not equal wins. I definitely think the Raiders have turned a corner. They’ve got a lot of weapons on the field. It’s just a matter of if they can win with these quarterbacks.
“Is Derek Carr their quarterback? I think that’s what this year is for. If he’s not, they’ll see if (Marcus) Mariota is. And if he’s not, they’ll get someone else next year. It’s just hard to know what you’re getting with Derek Carr. He’s probably the definition of an average NFL quarterback.”
Toughest NFL schedules
Based on opponents’ 2020 season win totals at Westgate sportsbook
Team; Opponents’ total wins
New York Giants; 138
Atlanta Falcons; 137½
Denver Broncos; 135½
Carolina Panthers; 135½
Toughest home schedules
New Orleans Saints; 70½
Denver Broncos; 70½
New York Giants; 70½
Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 69½
Indianapolis Colts; 123
Tennessee Titans; 126½
Los Angeles Chargers; 128
Baltimore Ravens; 128½
Cleveland Browns; 128½