The Raiders’ home schedule for their first season in Las Vegas is out, and though there is much uncertainty about whether home and away fans will be able to attend those inaugural games because of coronavirus-related restrictions, there is still plenty of buzz about the NFL’s newest city.
Whether or not there will be crowds in Allegiant Stadium, having the league play games adjacent to Mandalay Bay and the southern part of the Las Vegas Strip adds another reason to go to the Mecca of legal gambling this fall.
Really, it doesn’t require an NFL team moving to Vegas to do what happens in Vegas on any given weekend, including wagering on wall-to-wall NFL games that are nowhere close to there. Just consider it one more excuse to plan a football-themed Vegas weekend, whether it’s responsible viewing in a stadium or sportsbook.
The Raiders will break in their new digs wth a marquee Monday night Week 2 game against the Saints on Sept. 21. Six of their remaining home games will be on Sundays, with one Thursday night affair against the Chargers in Week 15 on Dec. 17.
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Knowing that, and looking at the tentative college football schedule, here are the dates around when you should be looking to socially distance near the Raiders’ new home during the 2020 NFL season:
1. Week 4: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Buffalo Bills (Sunday, Oct. 4)
The opener vs. the Saints would be a hard ticket to get if avaiable and it’ll be two days after all the college games will have been played. But get to Vegas for a weekend on Friday, Oct. 2, and you’re in business for both footballs.
A USC vs. Utah Pac-12 clash that night will open the fun. There are also plenty of good appetizers on Saturday, highlighted by Baylor vs. Oklahoma and Penn State vs. Michigan during the day and going all the way through to the nightcap of Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin in Lambeau Field. Whether or not you’re in the Bills Mafia and just want some taste of the game if you can’t be there, this full weekend is an excellent way to start.
2. Week 7: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, Oct. 21)
Before you see Tom Brady play in Las Vegas for the first time and remind the Raiders what they might have had this season as the teams meet in a rematch of Super Bowl 37, you can really soak it all in. If you’re so incliined and you’re allowed to attend live games, you can see UNLV host Colorado State in Allegiant the day before.
Elsewhere, you can bet on Bedlam (Okahoma vs. Oklahoma State) and another big-time Big Ten matchup (Ohio State-Penn State). You can keep it rolling through Saturday, honoring former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin by watching some Florida Atlantic, some Ole Miss and then Alabama vs. Tennessse.
3. Week 10: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Denver Broncos (Sunday, Nov. 15)
Let’s be completely honest: You know it’s one of those college football weekends when Clemson is hosting The Citadel and Alabama brings in Tennessee-Martin. But then you realize it’s November and it’s getting colder and it’s nice to be in the desert where you can still golf comfortably during the day and go clubbing uncomfortably at night.
You still have plenty of nice conference games to watch indoors and you can keep it going very late on Saturday/early Sunday with hometown UNLV playing at Hawaii.
4. Week 11: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, Nov. 22)
It’s just short of Rivalry Weekend and Thanksgiving, but you’ll be fine regardless with Patrick Mahomes headlining some combination of Cirque Du Soleil show and magic act right off the Strip. You still get to watch two nice SEC matchups — Texas A&M vs. Alabama and LSU vs. Auburn — and there’ll also be a pretty loaded Pac-12 slate to take care of you on Saturday. Unfortunately, this is the last full college football weekend during which the Raiders are also home, so you should think about taking advantage of that if you want to maximize the action.
5. Week 14: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Indianapolis Colts (Sunday. Dec. 13)
There’s a chance the Raiders might still be looking for their first home win this late given the level of competiton they’re inviting to Allegiant. There’s a pretty big college football game still left at this point, too, with Army-Navy set for that Saturday in Philadelphia. There’s always (hopefully) the heart of the new NBA and NHL seasons (maybe the Golden Knights will be at home, too) to round out a late-season weekend as you try to earn some extra holiday cash.
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6. Week 16: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins (Sunday, Dec. 27)
This is last but it’s not least, because this might become the easiest Vegas ticket for an outsider to get this season, given that it falls between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Dolphins may be ending another shaky season, which will make it hard for their fans to leave South Florida for somewhere colder more than 2,500 miles away.
Getting there before Friday will be good, so you can settle in for the Vikings-Saints holiday special and unwrap the traditional marquee NBA games. You can also go crazy betting on random bowl games and putting down final futures for both the College Football Playoff and Super Bowl 55
It’s all just Vegas, baby. Just Vegas.