It has been a weird and whacky year where a 4-6 team is actually only a single game outside of the playoff race. It doesn't stop there though because the NY Jets are holding the final wild-card spot and they are on the Raiders upcoming schedule. This is not the Twilight Zone, the Oakland Raiders actually are in the middle of the playoff race.
The fact that they are still alive at all is because of dumb luck but it doesn't really matter. This is now a new season for the Raiders, it is a six game season and they could end the dark days at the end of it. The strangest part is that it is now more likely to go to the playoffs than it is to have a winning record, that is crazy! They still need some help because the Dolphins at 5-5 hold the top spot outside of the playoffs but who knows week in and week out what they will do.
With the play of Matt McGloin yesterday it puts the Raiders in a very odd position where they could be considering a QB change in the middle of a very real playoff race. It's not something you see often from a team that is smack dab in the middle of the race but it is now the reality of this Raiders team. McGloin played so well that it is impossible not to at least ask if he is the QB that should lead this team going forward.
To make it even stranger, it is not just the QB position that is ripe for the picking. The starting running back job is also in line to change hands. For weeks now Rashad Jennings has been the better running back but he is technically the number 2 behind Darren McFadden. He is anything but behind DMC in production though and he has clearly become the better choice at the tailback position.
What that means is that Oakland with this great defense now is in a position where they can completely flip the script on the tape. They can recreate themselves in the middle of fighting for that last playoff spot and it would make them that much more unpredictable to their upcoming opponents. This is exactly what the Raiders should do.
Terrelle Pryor has been a great story but he has struggled for several games in a row and now his injury has opened the door for a completely different type of passer. Watching Matt McGloin yesterday it should have been obvious how much quicker he is getting the ball out of his hands. Greg Olson's offense is one that relies on quick reads and that is not what Pryor has been doing, it is on the other hand a major strength of McGloin.
Not only does Matt McGloin's quick release offer a better chance for the Raiders to succeed, it also gives Oakland the chance to utilize Terrelle in different ways. Pryor is incredibly athletic and would still be used whether he is the starter or not, and using him for random plays would do better at keeping the defense off of being able to key onto him. He would be fresher as a Wildcat weapon and he would still get the experience he needs to continue developing.
The thing that makes this switch so obvious to me is the fact that Greg Olson had to change his entire offense when bringing in Terrelle as the starter. He came outright and said he had to change everything to fit what Pryor does and that did not happen until right at the beginning of the season. There should be no wonder to why his offense has looked stagnant at times, he wasted months before the season creating an offense that he didn't end up using.
In comes Matt McGloin and the offense that Greg was getting ready all off season now becomes an option to bring back. How can ignoring the chance to use the offense he was creating all off-season be the best chance for the team? I understand how amazing Terrelle Pryor is athletically but he has struggled to win. Now the Raiders have the opportunity to change their team from what the tape has been showing into what they planned on being all along.
This crazy season is giving the Raiders a chance to finally get out of their own heads. No 4-6 team should be just a single game away from the playoffs but that is exactly where they are. It is no longer too early to talk about the post season, this is the point where you have to start seriously considering that it might happen. The possibility is not just mathematically possible, it is down right there for the grabbing.
If you asked any Raiders fan before the season if they would be happy if they were one game out of the final spot with 6 games to go and you would have gotten an unanimous yes. As unbelievable as it is that is exactly where this win against the Houston Texans has put the Raiders. It is yet to be seen the direction the Raiders will take with the questions they have in front of them, but the very fact that the questions are being asked is a good thing for the team.
The schedule is not easy going forward but if they can string some wins together they will earn a playoff berth. They have to face a tough Titans team next week and they are one of the other 4-6 teams fighting for the last playoff spot. After that game they play the Cowboys who are also fighting for their playoff lives in the NFC. After that they play the Jets who hold the final Wild-Card spot and then run through the gauntlet that is the AFC West.
The Raiders would need a lot of luck and a lot of fight to get that final spot but this is the NFL and anything can happen. It is impossible to trust that the Raiders will actually do it, but they have the chance in front of them. They need to get hot right now off of this win and go forward as the mighty team that they believe themselves to be. Now is their chance to show that they are who they think they are.
On a final note, this win stopped two more long standing streaks for the Raiders. The Raiders hadn't won in November since the Bears game during Hue Jackson's tenure here in 2011, and it is their first win on the road since October 8th of 2012 in Kansas City. These little negative streaks feel good to break and should always be celebrated. That has never been more true than right now where breaking these streaks has catapulted the Raiders into the thick of the AFC playoff race. There is a long way to go, but it is mighty nice having something to play for in November.