Pros and cons of an early bye week

The Raiders' season is just two weeks old and it's already time for them to take a break. The bye week comes early, as early as it ever has for the team in the 17 years since the NFL instituted the one-week-off rule.

That's not necessarily a bad thing considering how the Raiders have started off this season. Any break is a welcomed respite at this point.

But it also sets Oakland up to have to play the final 14 games in the regular season without pause, enhancing the likelihood for fatigue and wear and tear come November and December.

"Last year it was kind of early so you take it as it comes," Raiders defensive end Derrick Burgess said. "It's good to have it early and just to get it out of the way. Sometimes it's bad because you might need it later on down the road but that's part of being a professional.

"We still have to respond and come do our job every day, so it really doesn't matter. You have to deal with it."

The Raiders are 9-7 overall coming off the bye and 4-3 at home. After their break this week, they return to host Cleveland on Oct. 1.

Before their recent three-year slump, the Raiders were one of the most successful teams in the NFL when coming off a bye week. From 1994-2002, Oakland teams went 8-1 coming off the bye, including a six-year run in which the Raiders went unbeaten the week after a bye.

The only other time the team had a bye this early in the season was in 2002, the year Oakland captured the AFC Championship and played in Super Bowl XXXVII.

That year, Oakland beat Seattle and Pittsburgh to open the season before breaking for the bye. The Raiders returned with a vengeance, slapping Tennessee with a 52-25 loss that was the Titans' most lopsided defeat since 1993 when the franchise was still operating out of Houston and using the Oilers' nickname.

Since then, though, the Raiders have had their bye nearer to mid-season, breaking down the season perfectly into two halves.

Now, however, Oakland will have to make the stretch run without having the bye to look forward to. Head coach Art Shell, who never had a bye anyway during his 15-year Hall of Fame playing career, said the Raiders will benefit from the break no matter when it comes.

"We've still got some guys we can get a bit healthier," said Shell, referring to tackle Robert Gallery, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and linebacker Sam Williams, all of whom were nursing moderate to severe injuries in the days leading up to Oakland's game with Baltimore.

"When (the bye) comes, it comes. One thing I learned a long time ago, you can only deal with the things you can control. I have no control over that so our team has to deal with that. How they schedule us, we have no control of it. So we work and we deal with it and we don't make it a big issue. If you do, then that becomes a distraction."

When they return from the bye this season, the Raiders will be facing a Cleveland team that is still trying to figure out its identity. That's followed by a short road trip to San Francisco before Oakland's schedule turns serious.

Following the 49ers game, the Raiders will face, in succession, Denver, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Denver, Kansas City and San Diego. Four games against division opponents, two against last year's Super Bowl participants and another against a Cardinals' team that is on the rise this season.

It's a stretch that will go a long way in determining the Raiders' fate this year. Four of the seven games are against AFC West teams, against whom Oakland is just 2-17 since 2002.

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