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Raiders season forecast: Improved Oakland makes the playoffs

Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) is poised to pile up yards against the Ravens and Bears early in the season.
Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) is poised to pile up yards against the Ravens and Bears early in the season. The Associated Press

WEEK 1

Sept. 13, vs. Cincinnati, 1:25 p.m., Ch. 13: The Raiders make a statement in a tight opening-game win over a 2014 playoff team. They pressure Andy Dalton and punch the Bengals in the nose with the running game. Win (1-0)

WEEK 2

Sept. 20, vs. Baltimore, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13: The Haloti Ngata-less Ravens can’t control running back Latavius Murray. Quarterback Derek Carr and wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper balance Oakland’s offense in another close win. Win (2-0)

WEEK 3

Sept. 27, at Cleveland, 10 a.m., Ch. 13: A decisive win keeps the Raiders rolling on the road as the talk of the NFL. Everything clicks, although Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel comes in late and puts up numbers. Win (3-0)

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WEEK 4

Oct. 4, at Chicago, 10 a.m., Ch. 13: Boo birds are out at Soldier Field as Oakland’s offensive line lays it on Chicago. Murray runs for big yardage. Win (4-0)

WEEK 5

Oct. 11, vs. Denver, 1:25 p.m., Ch. 13: Linebacker Khalil Mack dominates in the early going, but the Broncos adjust. Quarterback Peyton Manning plays catch with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders against the Raiders’ overmatched cornerbacks. Denver wins late. Loss (4-1)

WEEK 6/BYE

WEEK 7

Oct. 25, at San Diego, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13: A revamped offensive line, rookie running back Melvin Gordon, blossoming wide receiver Keenan Allen and financially happy quarterback Philip Rivers prove to be too much for the Raiders. Loss (4-2)

WEEK 8

Nov. 1, vs. New York Jets, 1:05 p.m., Ch 13: Oakland’s defense shuts down the Jets in the Raiders’ first rout of the season. Oakland’s young cornerbacks gain confidence against a weak New York pass offense, but it will be short-lived. Win (5-2)

WEEK 9

Nov. 8, at Pittsburgh, 10 a.m., Ch. 13: Thirty points aren’t enough for the Raiders. Carr has a big day, but Big Ben Roethlisberger’s day is bigger. Loss (5-3)

WEEK 10

Nov. 15, vs. Minnesota, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 40: Carr finds himself in another quarterback duel, and this time the second-year pro gets the best of Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater. Murray and the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson also entertain sold-out O.co Coliseum. Win (6-3)

WEEK 11

Nov. 22, at Detroit, 10 a.m., Ch. 13: An Oakland team on the rise loses one it should have won. A big game by Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is the difference. Loss (6-4)

WEEK 12

Nov. 29, at Tennessee, 10 a.m., Ch. 13: Another rarity for the Raiders – an easy road win. Coach Jack Del Rio gets to rest Murray and Carr for much of the second half. Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota doesn’t do much. Win (7-4)

WEEK 13

Dec. 6, vs. Kansas City, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13: This is a team the Raiders must beat to go anywhere this season, and they take care of a division rival at home. Is this a playoff team? Win (8-4)

WEEK 14

Dec. 13, at Denver, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13: The Raiders remain in the playoff hunt, but continued shortcomings by the corners show the team has a way to go to become elite. Manning and the Broncos win big, again. Loss (8-5)

WEEK 15

Dec. 20, vs. Green Bay, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 40: The Packers reaffirm that the improved Raiders don’t look ready for a deep playoff run. Packers wide receiver Ty Montgomery from Stanford could be the Rookie of the Year. Loss (8-6)

WEEK 16

Dec. 24, vs. San Diego, 5:25 p.m., NFL Network: A story breaks that the Chargers have solved their stadium issues and will remain in San Diego. The Raiders beat their would-be Los Angeles roommate to clinch a playoff berth and their first winning season since 2002. Win (9-6)

WEEK 17

Jan. 3, at Kansas City, 10 a.m., Ch. 13: Murray takes a breather and does not play. Carr also rests. The Chiefs win a meaningless game. Loss (9-7)

Andy Furillo: 916-321-1141, @andyfurillo

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