2004 schedule storylines

It's never too early to look ahead to compelling storylines for each game now that the NFL has released its schedule. Here is what the Oakland Raiders have in store and or a rare time – no Monday Night Football:

September 12, at Pittsburgh: The Raiders throwing 64 times through the vaunted Pittsburgh defense in 2002 seems like eons ago. Will Norv Turner's power-running game come to fruition this soon?

September 19, vs. Buffalo: The Bills' last visit to Oakland was late November of 1977. The Raiders won that game 34-13. Oakland will also get an up-close look at defensive tackle Sam Adams, a former Raider.

September 26, vs. Tampa Bay: The ESPN crew will have plenty of storylines for its Sunday Night telecast. Where do we start? Jon Gruden, Charlie Garner, Darrell Russell, Bruce Allen or the Super Bowl debacle of January 2003.

October 3, at Houston: The Raiders will visit Reliant Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XXXVIII, nine months later than they hoped.

October 10, at Indianapolis: Oakland's retooled defense gets its most daunting challenge to date under new coordinator Rob Ryan.

October 17, vs. Denver: The last time these two teams met in Oakland, its former coach ended the day by referring to his team as "the dumbest team in America in terms of how we play the game." Probably not the right forum for such a statement but its hard to ignore the fact that he was right.

October 24, vs. New Orleans: The Saints have been a puzzling group since former Raider assistant Jim Haslett took over in 2000.

October 31, at San Diego: The Raiders last two visits to San Diego have not been pleasant. First, the Super Bowl in January of 2003. Then, last season's 21-14 loss to the Chargers in the finale in a game that began with player indignation. It's only fitting that they are playing on Halloween.

November 7, at Carolina: This might be a game to watch because of the punters. Two of the best in the game take the field: Oakland's Shane Lechler and Carolina's Todd Sauerbrun.

November 21, vs. San Diego: Given that LaDainian Tomlinson had two monster games against Oakland, it might need two weeks to prepare.

November 28: at Denver: The last game Oakland visited Denver in primetime was not a pretty site.

December 5, vs. Kansas City: By this time, we'll know just how much progress the Raiders retooled defense and special teams has made.

December 12, at Atlanta: Two Raiders jumped ship to the Falcons in the offseason, linebacker Eric Johnson and defensive tackle Rod Coleman. Of course, this will be a great opportunity to watch Michael Vick up close.

December 19, vs. Tennessee: When these two teams meet, the game is physical. Oakland's defense will face another test against quarterback Steve McNair.

December 25, at Kansas City: The latest chapter in this storied rivalry has a Christmas edition.

January 2, vs. Jacksonville: Will this be the last game before training camp of 2005? Or will it be a springboard to the postseason?

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