Playing on Thursday night is nothing special. The NFL mandates each team play this midweek showcase, a relatively recent feature on the league slate.
The Raiders haven’t had a primetime game outside that required Thursday appearance in a few years, and the last go-round was embarrassing. The Denver Broncos whooped the Silver and Black in a 37-21 shellacking at Sports Authority Field in 2013.
Since then, the networks with exclusive broadcast windows haven’t been interested in showing Raiders football. It’s hard to blame them, with just seven victories in 2013 and ’14 combined.
Last year’s 7-9 campaign, the first under head coach Jack Del Rio, garnered league-wide respect. So did this free agent season, the latest of several acquisition periods lauded by national press.
The Raiders are expected to compete for a playoff berth in 2016 – their first postseason spot since 2002 – and the schedule makers took note. The Raiders are now worth a primetime slot.
The Raiders have three this season, two outside a Thursday night contest at Kansas City on Dec. 8. It’s the highest total since 2006, when they played four night games.
They’ll also face the Houston Texans on “Monday Night Football,” a Nov. 21 affair given a special slot in large part because it’s being played in Mexico City.
The other prime timegame really means something. The Raiders host the Broncos on “Sunday Night Football,” a game that generally holds the NFL’s largest viewing audience. It’s also at home, another benefit for an East Bay fan base cheering from Oakland Coliseum, typically the butt of national jokes.
The Raiders haven’t played on “Sunday Night Football” since 2006. They lost a 13-3 affair to Denver that season. The Raiders are 17-18 on Sunday nights.
The Silver and Black should be better in 2016, and will have an easier path to success than recent seasons. They had the NFL’s toughest schedule in 2014, when they faced the tough NFC West and finished 3-13. The 2015 slate was No. 7 in terms of strength of schedule.
This Raiders slate ranks No. 15, with opposition that finished .500 last season and features games against six 2015 playoff teams. Each season is different, so it’s impossible to predict how stiff competition will be when teams appear on the schedule.
The Raiders won’t worry about blocks of road contests, an extra road game in Mexico City or whether they play day or night.
“It’s always exciting to see the release of the new schedule,” Del Rio said in a statement. “We look forward to competing and meeting the challenges ahead of us.”