It’s been 13 years since the Oakland Raiders (5-6) reached the playoffs and they have failed to finish second in the AFC West since winning the division in 2002. Entering Week 13, Jack Del Rio's squad is four games behind the AFC West leading Denver Broncos, yet Oakland is the No.9 seed in the AFC and very much alive in the wild-card standings.
The Raiders trail four 6-5 teams competing for two postseason berths, which are currently held by the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. The New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers are the No.7 and No.8 seeds, respectively.
Oakland is in control of their own destiny, with three home games and two road games. They have two games remaining with Kansas City, including a contest in the regular-season finale, and winning both of those games would put them in a great position to make the playoffs. But those won’t be easy games to win, considering the Chiefs have won five games in a row and are three-point road favorites in their Week 13 visit to Oakland.
The Raiders have one of the most difficult schedules for the remaining five weeks. Other than their two matchups with Kansas City, Oakland visits the Denver Broncos (9-2) and hosts the Green Bay Packers (7-4). The Raiders have a prime-time game on Christmas Eve, when they host the San Diego Chargers (3-8) in a game they can't afford to lose.
While the Raiders have four games remaining against winning teams, the Chiefs don’t face a team with a record above .500 for the rest of 2015. The Jets, whom the Raiders defeated on Nov. 1, only face one winning team for the rest of the year. Pittsburgh defeated Oakland in Week 9, and the Steelers have three straight games with first-place teams.
Oakland has struggled against the best teams on their schedule, going 1-5 against teams that have at least five wins. The Raiders, however, have a few reasons to be hopeful.
Derek Carr has provided the Raiders the most production at quarterback since Rich Gannon, who led the team to Super Bowl XXXVII. Carson Palmer had a measure of success in his two-year stint with the Raiders, but Carr has posted better statistics and has given Oakland some much-needed swagger. Carr has 24 touchdown passes and a 101.5 passer rating this season, making a case to be on the Pro Bowl roster.
Carr left the season opener with an injury, but he's played in every game. Oakland suffered a few key injuries in Week 1, but they’ve been healthy for a large part of the season. Charles Woodson dislocated his shoulder in the opener and remains on the injury report for Week 13, but he hasn’t missed a game and remains one of the NFL’s best defensive backs.
The Raiders are dealing with a few injuries heading into their upcoming game with Kansas City. Center Rodney Hudson has a sprained ankle, and Tony Bergstrom, who’s started in Hudson’s place twice this season, is practicing with the first-team offense. Linebacker Neiron Ball is “a question mark," according to Del Rio, because of a knee injury. Rookie Ben Heeney has seen more time on the field in Ball’s absence.
Oakland has +10000 Super Bowl odds at Bovada.lv, trailing seven AFC teams.
Sunday, Dec .3 vs. Chiefs
Sunday, Dec. 13 @ Broncos
Sunday, Dec. 20 vs. Packers
Thursday, Dec. 24 vs. Chargers
Sunday, Jan. 3 @ Chiefs