Six Matchups To Circle In The 2016 Regular Season

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The wait is over.

Thursday evening, the NFL announced the entirety of the 2016 regular season schedule, officially locking in the Silver and Black's opponents for next year.

The Raiders are a team on the rise, and as such, there are a multitude of storylines surrounding the group heading into 2016.

We've gone over the schedule, and here are six particularly intriguing matchups to circle for the 2016 regular season.

1. The home opener

After opening the season on the road with an away date against the New Orleans Saints, Derek Carr and Co. return home to the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum to open their home slate of games against the Atlanta Falcons in a Week 2 matchup.

Last season's first game at home didn't go so well – the team was blown out 33-13 – and Head Coach Jack Del Rio will surely want to start off the home slate in 2016 on a better note.

The Falcons, still led by Matt Ryan, are a quality team and the Raiders' defense will have its hands full Week 2.

Also keep in mind that the early-season matchup also boasts two of the best young wide receivers in the game with Amari Cooper and Julio Jones sharing the same field.

This one will be fun.

2. Kelechi Osemele returns to Baltimore

Before signing with the Raiders this offseason, offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele spent the first four seasons of his career with the Baltimore Ravens.

Originally drafted in the second round (No. 60 overall) by the Ravens in the 2012 NFL Draft, during his time as a Raven he appeared in 51 games – each of them starts.

Osemele won't have to wait long to square off with his former team as the Raiders travel to Baltimore Week 4.

3. Two teams on the rise meet in Tampa Bay

The Oakland Raiders have their quarterback of the future – Derek Carr.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have theirs as well – Jameis Winston.

Both teams struggled mightily in 2014 – combining for just five wins – but in 2015, each showed a marked improvement, and on the shoulders of their young quarterbacks, gave their respective fan bases something to be excited about.

Similarly, heading into 2016, both the Raiders and Buccaneers have big expectations attached to them, and their Week 8 showdown at Raymond James Stadium will provide a good barometer of improvement for each squad.

Oh, and don't forget that Donald Penn is returning to the place where he spent the first seven years of his NFL career.

He definitely hasn't.

4. Vivan Los Raiders!

Following the bye week, the Silver and Black will fly south for their Week 11 matchup with the Houston Texans, and they won't just fly south, they'll fly out of the country.

For just the second time in franchise history, the Raiders will be playing a game internationally, this time squaring up with the Texans at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

In what will assuredly be an electric environment, two of the best pass rushers in the game, Khalil Mack and J.J. Watt, will put their skills on display for an international audience as the game is set to be the Week 11 matchup of ESPN's Monday Night Football.

The Texans will also be boasting a new starting quarterback in 2016, Brock Osweiler, a player that the Raiders are very familiar with – Khalil Mack in particular.

5.  Sean Smith goes back to Kansas City

Cornerback Sean Smith spent the past three seasons in Kansas City, and heading into 2016 he thought he would still be a Chief.

However, that's not how things shook out for the veteran ballhawk, and this offseason he signed a free agent deal to join the Silver and Black.

While Smith will face off against his former team in Oakland in Week 6, he won't return back to Arrowhead Stadium until Week 14.

Take a historical look at the Raiders 2016 schedule in pictures.

Another thing to keep in mind? The Raiders beat each team in the AFC West last season except the Kansas City Chiefs, and if the team is serious about making a run at the division crown, that will have to change.

6. Wrapping it up at Mile High

Jack Del Rio's team will go more than a year between matchups at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, but for what will be the finale for the 2016 regular season campaign, he'll be hopeful that the result will remain the same.

The last time the Raiders traveled to Denver, the team produced its signature win of 2015, a 15-12 victory in which Khalil Mack delivered one of the best defensive efforts in league history.

The Broncos are the reigning Super Bowl champions and have won the AFC West the past five seasons, but the Raiders are a team on the rise, and Coach Del Rio has been candid about the importance of winning the division.

So often in the NFL, postseason positioning comes down to the final week, so we'll see if that's the case in 2016.

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