Jon Gruden's Raiders to enter 2018 with NFL's third-easiest strength of schedule

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- How about this for a jump start to Jon Gruden's second tenure with the Oakland Raiders?

The Raiders will enter the 2018 season with the third-easiest strength of schedule in the NFL, based on their opponents’ cumulative winning percentage of .473 last season. Only the Houston Texans (.453) and Tennessee Titans (.465) have easier SOSs, while the Cincinnati Bengals' 2018 foes also had a combined winning percentage of .473 in 2017.

ESPN Stats & Information crunched the numbers. The Green Bay Packers will have the toughest SOS in 2018 at .539.

The Raiders entered last season with the fourth-hardest strength of schedule and finished 6-10. A major reason for the switch in SOS is the relative downfall of the AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs went from 12-4 in 2016 to 10-6 last season while the Denver Broncos fell from 9-7 to 5-11 and the Los Angeles Chargers improved from 5-11 to 9-7. The Raiders going from 12-4 to 6-10 gave the division a minus-8 in wins from one year to the next.

Of course, the actual schedule with dates will not be revealed until mid- to late-April, which will give a better idea as to the team’s prospects given the timing of certain games. But the Raiders do know the date of one “home” game -- Oct. 14 against the Seattle Seahawks at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium in London.

Beyond that game, one could assume the Raiders will have their bye the following week.

Also, with the Raiders having spent a week in Florida, practicing at the IMG Academy in Bradenton between East Coast games the past two seasons, they could potentially do so again the week before going to London. At least, that was the thought before Jack Del Rio was fired.

Sticking to the Florida roadie idea, the Raiders could presumably ask the NFL schedule makers to give them a road game in the East on Oct. 7 -- the Miami Dolphins? The Baltimore Ravens? The Cincinnati Bengals? -- and then head to IMG for the week before going to London.

Gruden, as you can imagine, had not given much thought to Oakland’s opponents when he was reintroduced as coach on Jan. 9. Schedule? Gruden was more intrigued by what he can and cannot do, since he last coached in 2008.

“I mean, teams are building these monstrosity facilities and they can’t even use them because they’re locked out because of the collective bargaining agreement,” Gruden said at the time. “So look, you can’t wear pads on the practice field at times, the lengths of practices, the way training camp unfolds now.

“There are limitations on what you can do, so it is critical that you spend a lot of time looking at the practice schedules, the meeting schedules, so you can get as much done as possible in a short period of time, and I think there is a real skill and a real art to that and certainly that’s something we have been researching carefully.”

Meanwhile, here are the Raiders’ opponents for 2018 and their 2017 records, showing how Oakland’s foes combined for that .473 winning percentage last year:

Home: Cleveland Browns (0-16), Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3), Los Angeles Rams (11-5), *Seattle Seahawks (9-7), Indianapolis Colts (4-12), Denver Broncos (5-11), Kansas City Chiefs (10-6), Los Angeles Chargers (9-7).

Away: Baltimore Ravens (9-7), Cincinnati Bengals (7-9), Arizona Cardinals (8-8), San Francisco 49ers (6-10), Miami Dolphins (6-10), Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers.

In going from 12-4 in 2016 to 6-10 last year, the Raiders had the second-largest drop-off in victories from one season to the next in franchise history. The Raiders went from 11-5 in 2002 to 4-12 in 2003, a seven-game drop.