Claiming two victories in their last three games, the Oakland Raiders (6-7) have already doubled last season’s win total under head coach Jack Del Rio but they’ll need to win out and get some significant help from the rest of the AFC’s Wild Card contenders to snap their 14-year playoff drought.
As Oakland comes off a huge 15-12 victory over AFC West rival Denver, it sits in eighth place in the conference and playoff standings behind present wild card holders Kansas City and the New York Jets, with the Pittsburgh Steelers ahead by 2.5 games with three left to play.
In terms of tiebreakers, the Raiders are looking good on some fronts, but not on others. Oakland already lost its first matchup with the Chiefs back in Week 13, which equally hurt its division and in-conference records. The Raiders could pull the season-series level in Week 17, but Kansas City can pad its 7-2 conference record tiebreaker with all three of its final games against AFC opponents.
Oakland has two straight home games and one more on the road, at the Chiefs, but the best it can do is get to 8-4 in the conference, which Kansas City can equal by simply going 1-2 down the stretch.
Should the third tiebreaker (record against common opponents) come into play, the Chiefs also have the advantage. Since they are in the same division, Kansas City and Oakland each faced the AFC North and the NFC North and the Chiefs can improve their 5-5 record against those opponents with two straight games against lowly Baltimore and Cleveland. They could also sweep the season-series and jam up Oakland at home.
The best Oakland can do after going 4-6 in common games is beat Green Bay in Week 15 and San Diego in Week 16, but it really can’t catch the Chiefs, who could jump to 7-5 against common opponents and also own stronger strength of schedule (SOS) and strength of victory (SOV) percentages over the Raiders.
Should Pittsburgh move up the standings the Raiders face similar hurdles. Oakland lost at Pittsburgh in Week 9, which would automatically eliminate them if they are tied with the Steelers at the end of the regular season. Furthermore, the Steelers are 3-3 in commons games compared to Oakland’s 4-2 showing, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has three chances to bolster that tiebreaker vs. Denver, and at Baltimore and Cleveland to close out the season. All three were previous opponents of Oakland’s, and the Raiders could gain two more wins against San Diego and Kansas City. However, that won’t negate Week 9’s loss.
The Raiders are technically better within the conference with a 6-4 mark to Pittsburgh’s 5-4, but the Steelers can tie with three more AFC games on their schedule compared to Oakland’s two.
Instead, Oakland’s best chances of making the postseason involve the Jets and either the Chiefs or Steelers tumbling down the standings. The Raiders beat the Jets in Week 8 by two touchdowns, a win that hands them the head-to-head tiebreaker, and New York also has just two AFC games to improve its 6-4 conference record. Oakland also presently has a stronger SOV, which supersedes SOS, than the Jets, sitting at .397 compared to their .376. In terms of common games, Oakland’s actually tied with New York at 2-0, with both sides beating Cleveland and Tennessee this season.
There’s still a lot of football left to be played, but the Raiders best chances of making the postseason remain in winning out and hoping the Jets and Steelers melt down. New York hits the road to face the beleaguered Cowboys, but finishes the season vs. New England and then at Buffalo, two very tough games. The Steelers have a very difficult matchup against Denver’s loaded defense, and they could slip up at home even though they have a 5-2 mark at Heinz Field.