If you're still right now sitting near the tv and watching that NFL Network schedule announcement program -- or one it's many, many repeat re-broadcasts -- consider the rest of this page to be spoiler material. Because it's time to break down the Raiders 2009 schedule.
What really jumps out at first glance is the Raiders' opening with three straight games against all their AFC West opponents. It's the Monday Night Home Opener against the Chargers, then they're at Arrowhead against Kansas City, then at home closing out September against the Broncos.
If they don't win any of those first three, they're pretty much out of the playoff hunt before it's even October. On the other hand, if they manage to win two of those three, they're in outstanding shape within the division.
They've got that Monday Nighter against San Diego, plus the Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Dallas Cowboys -- but you already knew about those. There are no other nationally televised games on the Raiders' schedule. But the "flex schedule" concept is in effect for NBC's Sunday Night Football for Week 17. So on the off-chance that Raiders final regular season game against the Ravens on January 3 at McAfee Coliseum is for home-field throughout the AFC playoffs, then that would potentially be nationally televised as well.
The Raiders have to deal with that awful three-day prep week leading up to the Dallas game on Thanksgiving. Lucky for them, the schedule says they're only coming off a Bengals game. The real flip side to that short Thanksgiving week is the Raiders then get nine days to prepare for a brutal road game at the defending world champion Pittsburgh Steelers on December 6.
Their Bye Week falls on a very nicely-placed Week Nine. But rest assured that will not influence any of my "NFL hates the Raiders" conspiracy theories.
The complete Raiders 2009 schedule can be viewed at NFL.com.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who hopes he didn't just jinx them on that Nov. 22 Bengals game.