Raiders’ Path to the Playoffs May Be Easier Than Originally Thought

Getty Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden

To the surprise of many, the Oakland Raiders entered their bye week with a winning record after a strong performance against the Chicago Bears. After they lost to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3 and went down to 1-2, it looked like the Raiders were in for another mediocre season that the franchise has become used to. However, Oakland has pulled off two impressive wins in a row over two good teams and they have a ton of momentum heading into the matchup versus the Green Bay Packers in Week 7.

While a win against Aaron Rodgers’ team would be monumental for the Raiders, they don’t need to pull off the upset to stay in playoff contention. As it stands, Oakland holds the last Wild Card spot for the playoffs if the season ended today. They are also only one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs for the top spot in the AFC West. Kansas City will be hard to keep up with, but the Raiders could have a real shot at a Wild Card berth. Here’s how they can pull it off.

The Raiders Only Have 4 Games Against Teams With Winning Records

When the schedule for the 2019 NFL season was released, the Raiders had the most difficult one out of any team. However, that schedule has been front-loaded with most of the team’s toughest tasks. Oakland has three tough games ahead of them. They play the Packers in Week 7, the Houston Texans in Week 8 and the Detriot Lions in Week 9. All of those teams currently have winning records. That being said, after the Lions game, they only face one more team that has a winning record and that’s the Kansas City Chiefs. Here’s a breakdown of the schedule:

Week 10: vs. Los Angeles Chargers (2-3)

Week 11: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (0-5)

Week 12: @ New York Jets (0-4)

Week 13: @ Kansas City Chiefs (4-1)

Week 14: vs. Tennessee Titans (2-3)

Week 15: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)

Week 16: @ Los Angeles Chargers (2-3)

Week 17: @ Denver Broncos (1-4)

The combined record the Raiders’ remaining opponents is 22-27-1. With their brutal road trip halfway over, the team’s prospects are looking pretty great for a late-season charge. If they can pull out at least one win versus the winning team’s they still face, and run the table versus the losing teams, the Raiders finish 11-5. Now, that’s obviously a tall order, but Oakland may not even need to win that many games to get a Wild Card spot.

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The AFC Wild Card Race May Not Be That Competitive This Season

Through the NFL’s first five weeks, the AFC has looked weak in the bottom half. The teams in the Wild Card hunt are The Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennesee Titans. Only three of those teams currently have winning records. The Browns look like a mess. The Titans and Jaguars don’t seem to pose too big of a threat to any team. The Colts have a lot of potential, but the Raiders hold the tiebreaker over them because the Week 4 win. A nine-win season could get Oakland into the playoffs.

The games versus the Broncos, Bengals and Jets should be easy wins for a playoff team. That leaves three more wins the Raiders would need to get to nine. They should be good for at least one win against the Chargers. They should also win at least one of the games versus the Jaguars or Titans. That would mean that they’d need to pick up two more wins and if the team that showed up in Week 5 against the Bears continues to show up, they should be able to get those wins from the winning teams that they play.

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