Oakland unjustly rewarded

Justifying the Oakland Raiders schedule is impossible. In a world of what have you done for me lately, the Silver and Black have done nothing.

Either people in high places are grateful to Al Davis for helping broker the collective bargaining agreement between owners and players, or someone thinks the Oakland Raiders are on to something.

The Raiders, 13-35 over the past three years and having made little news in free agency other than signing New Orleans castoff Aaron Brooks, are featured in four prime-time games in 2006.

Besides the previously announced opener on Monday night in Oakland against San Diego, the Raiders will play at Denver on Sunday night, Oct. 15; visit Seattle on Monday night, Nov. 6; and host Kansas City on Saturday night, Dec. 23.

That's four high-profile games -- not to mention being chosen for the preseason Hall of Fame opener against Philadelphia on Aug. 6.

The six other teams that had records of 4-12 or worse combined for six prime time games, and three of those went to Green Bay, with the networks apparently secure in the belief that Brett Favre will not retire.

The Houston Texans (2-14) and Tennessee Titans (4-12) have no games under the lights. New Orleans (3-13), the New York Jets (4-12) and San Francisco 49ers (4-12) have one each.

Oakland's cross-bay rival, the 49ers, had the same 2005 record, draft one spot before the Raiders at No. 6, still sell enough tickets to declare sellouts at Monster Park and have an identical 13-35 record since the start of the 2003 season.

But when the schedule came out, the Raiders were considered more viewer-friendly. The 49ers' lone night game is a Thursday night affair Dec. 14 against Seattle.

It was the second straight season the 49ers had one prime time game, playing Arizona in Mexico City last season.

Oakland, by contrast, also drew four prime time games in 2005, despite coming off a 5-11 season. The Raiders even got the NFL season opener on Thursday night against defending champion New England, as well as night games against Kansas City, the San Diego Chargers and the New York Giants.

Given the high-profile acquisition of wide receiver Randy Moss, and to a lesser degree, the signing of free agent running back LaMont Jordan and the perception that Oakland might be on the upswing after a relatively impressive stretch of play at the end of the 2004 season, those assignments didn't have the shock value of the 2006 schedule.

Oakland's biggest news this last off-season was bringing back coach Art Shell, who was fired by Davis following the 1994 season and was the club's second choice after being turned down by Louisville coach Bobby Petrino.


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