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Raiders have second-hardest 2021 schedule behind Steelers

Based on their opponents’ 2021 season win totals at Las Vegas sportsbooks, the Raiders have the league’s second-toughest schedule, with their 17 foes totaling 155½ wins at Circa. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the NFL’s hardest slate (156).

The Raiders, who have the eighth-toughest schedule based on opponents’ 2020 winning percentage (.526), have a win total of 7½ and are favored in only six games by an average of 2.3 points.

They open the season against the Baltimore Ravens (11 wins) and also will play the Cleveland Browns (10½), along with two AFC West showdowns each against the Kansas City Chiefs (12½), Los Angeles Chargers (9½) and Denver Broncos (8½).

“That division is tough. Denver and the Chargers are rated really high even though they disappointed last year. There’s not one easy game in that division,” Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “It kind of feels like the same thing every year for the Raiders where they have a hard schedule. At some point, they need to make a jump forward and win some more games.”

The Raiders had seven weeks between home games in 2019, when they went 7-9 to surpass their win total of six. They had the third-toughest schedule last season, when they went 8-8 to top their total of 7½.

Over and over again

The Silver and Black were golden to over bettors last season, when they led the league with a 12-3-1 over-under mark. Longtime Las Vegas oddsmaker Dave Sharapan expects the Raiders — who ranked 30th in scoring defense, allowing an average of 29.9 points — to be in a bunch of shootouts again this season.

“The Raiders’ defense is just so bad,” said Sharapan, aka Sportsbook Consigliere (@SportsBkConsig). “They’re going to have to win games 45-42. They may score a lot of points but they’re going to give up a lot of points.”

Steely slate

Pittsburgh also has the most difficult schedule based on opponents’ win percentage (.574). Besides playing Baltimore and Cleveland twice each in the AFC North, the Steelers also will face Kansas City, Green Bay (10½) and Seattle (10) in what might be Ben Roethlisberger’s last stand.

“What the Steelers do, when everyone thinks they’re done, is exceed expectations,” Sharapan said. “I see this going one or two ways. They’ll probably either win 10 or 11 games and make the playoffs or have their first losing season under (coach Mike) Tomlin and win six or seven. You can’t be .500 anymore.”

Easiest schedules

The San Francisco 49ers play in arguably the NFL’s toughest division in the NFC West. But they have the league’s easiest schedule based on win totals.

Their 17 opponents combine for only 139 wins and include teams with five of the six lowest win totals in the Houston Texans (4), Detroit Lions (4½), Cincinnati Bengals (6½), Jacksonville Jaguars (6½) and Philadelphia Eagles (7).

“The Niners are going to be awesome this year. The only question is when are they going to start Trey Lance,” Salmons said. “The Niners are loaded. They have the best defensive line and defense in the NFL.

“Everything that could go wrong with injuries last year went wrong and now they come across a good schedule and have a chance to be really good this year. Like win the NFC good.”

Betting big on Lance

Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to open the season as San Francisco’s starting quarterback. But pro sports bettor Mark DeRosa is banking on Lance, the third overall pick in the draft, to have a monster year.

DeRosa, who won $63,000 on a $500 bet at Circa on Lamar Jackson to win the 2019 NFL MVP (125-1), posted on Twitter (@edteach23) that he bet on Lance “to win MVP to win nearly a million bucks” at odds of 250-1 and 300-1.

“The upside is real,” he wrote.

Bucs don’t stop here

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers return all 22 starters from their Super Bowl title team and have the second-easiest slate (142½). Tom Brady’s bunch will face only two teams with a double-digit win total in the Los Angeles Rams (10) and Buffalo Bills (11).

“Their schedule, outside of a Brady injury, gives them a real good chance to be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the playoffs,” Salmons said.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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