Oakland Raiders. Playoffs.
Just let that sit for a minute.
Could it really be true? Could this Oakland team really make the playoffs?
It sounds crazy, even psychotic, but believe it or not, the Raiders aren't just in the race — they're right in the middle of it.
Let's break it down:
At the moment, the sixth AFC playoff team is the New York Jets with a record of 5-5 and a tiebreaker over the only other 5-5 team, the Miami Dolphins.
Right behind those two teams is a group of six teams with a 4-6 record: Oakland, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland and San Diego. The Buffalo Bills are a half game back of them with a 4-7 record (the only team in the race that has yet to have a bye week).
So six teams are tied, what does that mean?
The playoff tiebreaker is simple for a scenario with three or more teams tied: one "representative" from each division is chosen from the group, determined by head-to-head record, divisional record and then conference record.
As it stands among the 4-6 teams, that leaves Oakland (having beaten San Diego), Tennessee and Pittsburgh. Then, the tie-breaker turns to head-to-head record, with Oakland and Tennessee both having beaten Pittsburgh.
The final tie-breaker needed at this point is conference record, which Oakland wins with a 4-3 record in the AFC (Tennessee is 3-4).
So, I repeat: Oakland is just two teams removed from the playoffs.
As for the Jets and Dolphins, the Jets are just 2-5 in the AFC, while Miami has the same record as Oakland: 4-3. The Raiders do play the Jets in week 14, but not Miami.
I understand this gets confusing the more teams that are involved, but the moral of the story is simple: Oakland isn't quite in the driver's seat, but they're close.
Throughout the remainder of the season, Oakland does play Tennessee and the Jets. If Oakland can beat both teams, they'd earn crucial tie-breakers over both while also improving their conference record. In fact, the same could be said about Oakland's second game against the Chargers, which could shift Oakland's current advantage over San Diego if their head-to-head advantage is wiped away.
Again, to simplify, Oakland needs to beat Tennessee this week, the Jets in week 14 and the Chargers in week 16. Even if they lose to both the Broncos and the Chiefs, it would leave Oakland with crucial tie-breakers and a 7-5 conference record.
The only other game on the schedule is a Thanksgiving match-up with the Dallas Cowboys. If Oakland could win that game, they'd finish the season at 8-8 — a miracle considering everything this team has had to deal with.
While most of this article is meant to be uplifting, it's also a bit disheartening.
Just think if this team hadn't choked against the Giants, came up just short against the Colts, and collapsed against the Redskins. Win just one of those three games and Oakland is alone in the drivers seat, but instead, they're going to need some help.
Those games also tells us something else: there's no making assumptions about this Oakland team. It's nice to assume that with just two games left against above-.500 teams, the Raiders would finish the season on a roll.
But to get there, we'd have to forget that Oakland has already lost multiple games they probably should have won.
To say this season has been a rollercoaster is an understatement. One week they're on top of the world, the next they're an embarassment. One week they choke away a winnable game, and the next a near-collapse leaves them in the middle of the playoff race.
Anyone who says they know what's coming next is lying, but then again — that also means the playoffs aren't completely out of the question.