Saying a game is a ‘must-win’ is downright cliche at this point. It’s unfortunate because there are times when it’s appropriate. This is one of those times for the Raiders.
Oakland sits at 2-3, losers of 3-straight. They face a 1-4 Chargers team looking to claw its way out of the bottom of the AFC West and try to salvage another rough season.
A win today for the Raiders would bring them back to 3-3. A loss would drop them to 2-4 and basically staring at 2-5 with the undefeated Chiefs in Oakland in four days, giving the Raiders more losses before midseason than they had all of last season (4).
That 12-4 record last season, matched the Chiefs record, though the Chiefs won the tiebreaker due to sweeping the Raiders in the season series. The Raiders are already 3 games behind the Chiefs, who are showing no signs of looking back.
Coaches and players always preach ‘one game at a time’ and that’s good because a loss today could conceivably have the Raiders looking at being five games back of the division leader after next week with already three division losses.
Realistically, at that point they would need to go at least 7-2 and probably 8-1 over the final nine games to have a shot at even a Wild Card berth.
Math aside, the Raiders are desperate to show they can beat a team they should beat.
You can, if you like, make some excuses for their losses the past three weeks. Washington is looking tough, Denver’s run defense is legit and the Raiders were within striking distance of winning late, and last week they were without Derek Carr.
If any of those potential excuses are to have any credence, they would have to be able to beat a 1-4 team at home with the worst run defense in the league, giving up over 161 rushing yards per game.
There are already plenty of questions about the Raiders’ abilities this season. Losing this game would lead to the inevitable question ‘Who CAN they beat?’ If they couldn’t beat THIS team than WHO?
That’s not to dismiss the Chargers. They are are a talented team that has been competitive in 3 of their 4 losses this season. But they’re not supposed to be better than this Raiders team. If the Raiders can’t win this game, they will have shown they are not a playoff caliber team. Not to mention it would put winning the division out of the question and even a wildcard spot an serious uphill battle.
No question, this is a capital Must, capital Win.