2018 Oakland Raiders game-by-game predictions

Jon Gruden’s return to the NFL as a coach -- he was the Oakland Raiders' headman from 1998 through 2001 and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 through 2008 -- is a big deal. Big enough that the Raiders are on prime-time television four times in 2018. A rough start, which includes a “home” game in London, and a chilly finish will tell the tale for Gruden 2.0, even as the Raiders are tied for the fourth-easiest strength of schedule in the NFL. They had the fourth toughest in 2017.

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

Welcome back to the NFL, Jon Gruden, and on ESPN’s Monday Night Football no less. Gruden’s first game on the Raiders sideline since the 2001 season is a monster test, against the likes of the Rams defense with Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Record: 0-1

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

The last time Oakland played here, Derek Carr broke three bones in his back. Hopefully for the Raiders’ sake, the Broncos' defense does not break Oakland’s will. Record: 0-2

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

Gruden & Co. finally break through, in the South Florida heat and humidity, for Gruden’s first regular-season win as Raiders coach since Dec. 15, 2001. Record: 1-2

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, vs. Cleveland Browns, 4:05 p.m. ET

Remember when Hue Jackson said he was going to take an even stronger hand with the entire Raiders organization? Neither do the Raiders. Record: 2-2

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

Things got ugly in a hurry the last time these two met on the Bolts’ temporary soccer pitch for a field. And the Chargers should be the division favorites. Record: 2-3

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Seattle Seahawks in London, 1 p.m. ET

The Raiders are starting to coalesce with Gruden 2.0, while the Seahawks are in rebuild mode. Bruce Irvin and Marshawn Lynch have the last laugh over Uncle Pete (Carroll). Record: 3-3

Week 7: Bye

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. Indianapolis Colts, 4:05 p.m. ET

Will Andrew Luck be playing by this time? If not, be sure to peep the faux Twitter account of him as a Civil War captain. Trust me. Record: 4-3

Week 9: Thursday, Nov. 1, at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m. ET

Technically, Oakland is closer to San Francisco than Santa Clara. Also technically, there is more grizzled veteran talent on the Raiders roster ... in mid-April. Record: 5-3

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

Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are the NFL’s best pass-rushing duo. And Philip Rivers has a thing about driving daggers into the heart of Oakland. Record: 5-4

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

Gruden’s gang has been grinding and needs a laugher. The Cardinals provide the jokes. Record: 6-4

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

How many times will Michael Crabtree be flagged for his Kenny Powers finger-sniff post-TD celebration against the Raiders? Depends on how many times the Raiders put Shareece Wright on him. I kid. Kinda. Record: 6-5

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 4:05 p.m. ET

Alex Smith is gone, much to the relief of the Raider Nation. Patrick Mahomes II, welcome to the Black Hole. Record: 7-5

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 p.m. ET

These ancient AFC rivals will conjur up images of Stabler-Bradshaw, Atkinson-Swann, the Immaculate, ahem, DE-ception. Carr outlasts Ben Roethlisberger under the lights. Record: 8-5

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

New Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther should have the blueprint on how to attack the Bengals. Yet it has all the makings of a trap game, given the emotional home games surrounding Cincinnati. Paging Admiral Ackbar. Record: 8-6

Week 16: Monday, Dec. 24, vs. Denver Broncos, 8:15 p.m. ET

Khalil, Case. Case, Khalil. Yes, the Raiders' all-everything edge rusher, Khalil Mack, should be in new Broncos QB Case Keenum’s grill all night in the Raiders’ fourth prime-time game of the year. Record: 9-6

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

Arrowhead Stadium has been Carr’s personal house of horrors. Can Gruden perform an exorcism? Record: 9-7