With a 26-24 win in Oakland, the Raiders have moved to 5-4 with seven games remaining in the 2019 season. Raider Nation has had to endure a rough start to the season, spending nearly two months on the road, facing the gauntlet of playoff teams like the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, and Kansas City Chiefs, but it gets a little easier moving forward.
In fact, it gets so much easier that not only can the Raiders be considered a possible playoff team… they should be favored. And here’s why.
The Oakland Raiders Have the Easiest Path to the Playoffs
It’s essentially a given that the Buffalo Bills will have the fifth seed in the AFC playoff picture. They’re already 6-2, even with some questionable quarterback play, and only have a couple of tough teams left on the schedule. Only three of Buffalo’s remaining eight games are against teams with winning records, and it’s worth noting that the Bills were only a blocked punt away from beating the 8-1 New England Patriots a few weeks ago.
So that leaves either the AFC West Championship, which would require, at the very least, being Kansas City handily, in Kansas City, which Derek Carr has never done or the six seed. Right now, the Raiders are on the outside looking in… but it might not stay that way for long, especially given the strength of schedule for the other teams in the mix.
(Just for the record, Oakland’s remaining opponents are a combined 22-40)
The Indianapolis Colts (33-35)
If there’s any team in the wild-card hunt that Raider Nation should be rooting for, it’s the team that’s currently in the six-spot, the Indianapolis Colts. Why? Because the Raiders have the head-to-head tiebreaker. Should the two teams end up with the same record, it’ll be the Raiders that get the post-season nod. However, it’s not going to be easy for the Colts.
The Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, and Carolina Panthers still remain on their schedule, as well as two bouts against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will have Nick Foles under center. The Raiders don’t need the Colts to lose all of these games, and in fact, it would be beneficial if they could beat Jacksonville at least once, but a couple of losses wouldn’t hurt.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (25-37-1)
It is beyond frustrating that the Pittsburgh Steelers are not only still in the playoff hunt, but have an easy schedule. The Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, and Baltimore Ravens are the only competitive teams left on their schedule, with two games against the struggling Cleveland Browns, and trips to play the Arizona Cardinals and winless Cincinnati Bengals cushioning their odds.
Hopefully the good teams can take care of the banged-up Steelers, but don’t be surprised if they’re sniffing around the last wild-card spot in December.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (27-34)
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a bit of an enigma. They’re 0-5 against teams with a winning record so far this season, but Nick Foles is finally back after missing all but the first half of the first game. That kind of veteran experience under center could make them dangerous, even if the defense isn’t what it once was.
Their upcoming schedule is kinda funky too. They’ve got the 5-3 Colts this week, but who knows how healthy Jacoby Brissett is. Then they’ve got the Titans, who might be the most unpredictable team in football, the talented, if inconsistent Los Angeles Chargers, and then, conveniently enough, the Raiders, for the last game in Oakland. Then the season wraps with the inexplicably bad Atlanta Falcons before hosting the Colts in the finale.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Jaguars made some noise towards the end of the season, but since the Raiders host them in Oakland, they’re not one of the team’s bigger threats.
The Raider Schedule
vs. the 0-8 Cincinnati Bengals
With ten days off, the Raiders are hosting a winless Bengals team. If they don’t win this game, we don’t need to discuss the playoff picture at all. The Bengals won’t have Andy Dalton or A.J. Green, and I’ll repeat, this game is in Oakland. If the Raiders lose this, they might need to shut Twitter down.
@ the 1-7 New York Jets
This upset would be a little less surprising, but still very disappointing. I could see Le’Veon Bell going ballistic and Sam Darnold putting up a lot of points, because whether or not Raider Nation wants to hear it, this defense is still very, very bad. Having said that, I do expect the Raiders to win this game, rather handily, if I can be blunt.
@ the 6-3 Kansas City Chiefs
Okay, if the Raiders have won four in a row heading into this game, there’s going to be a lot of hype, and the Silver and Black will be a trendy pick to win. I just don’t buy the defense shutting down a presumably healthy Patrick Mahomes, especially not in Arrowhead, where Derek Carr has never won.
vs. the 4-5 Tennessee Titans
Fortunately, the Raiders get back on track a week later, dominating a Titans team that doesn’t have the offensive firepower to abuse the Raider’s porous defense, let alone a defense good enough to slow down Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs. The Raiders advance to 8-5, and in case you’ve forgotten, match the second best record the franchise has had since 2002.
vs. the 4-5 Jacksonville Jaguars
The Raiders could face the 2007 Patriots in this game and I’d still pick them. This is the last game ever being played in Oakland (barring a division title), and I fully expect the place to be rocking. If the Jags are in playoff contention, this bout might even get flexed into primetime, which to me, seems only fair.
@ the 4-6 Los Angeles Chargers
This game will be a tough one. Even though every game between the Chargers and the Silver and Black is a home game for the Raiders, the Chargers should be healthier, and it’s hard to beat the same team twice in a single season. If the Raiders won this game, it would be a huge treat, likely giving them a 10 win season, but I wouldn’t bank on it.
@ the 3-6 Denver Broncos
The Broncos are a dumpster fire. Who even knows what they’ll have under center in this game, and it’s not like they’ve been getting better over the last few weeks. The Raiders are definitely taking this one… and hopefully moving on to the post-season.
But the best part? My favorite thing about the 2019 season so far? Is that it doesn’t matter how well or poorly the Oakland Raiders do, they have Chicago’s first-round pick, and barring a late-season turnaround, it’s going to end up being a pretty high one. Raider Nation seems to be pretty high on Derek Carr at the moment, but they shouldn’t forget to stop and thank Mitch Trubisky for everything he’s doing for our franchise this season.