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Why Raiders chances of making the playoffs this season may be better than Football Outsiders calculations

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Math is great and all, but that’s not how games are played.

NFL: New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Absolutely the Raiders are still in the playoff chase. In fact, they control their own destiny. Unfortunately, their margin for error is also extremely thin and their schedule the rest of the way.

Football Outsiders put together a list of the AFC teams still in the playoff hunt. They put the Raiders as a contender, but just barely. They sneak in with a slim 12% chance of getting in.

9. Oakland Raiders (5-6)

Chances of making the playoffs: 12.0 percent

Oakland's problem is the hardest remaining schedule among AFC contenders. The Raiders are the last AFC West team to play the Eagles, and they have to do it in Philadelphia. They also have to play the Chiefs in Kansas City and the Chargers in Los Angeles, although come to think of it, the latter is probably going to be more of a "home game" for the Raiders. Oakland also gets home games against the Giants (led by Geno Smith!) and the Cowboys (not led by Ezekiel Elliott, in the last week of his suspension).

That is just below the Chargers who have a 28.7% chance. A Chargers team that has already beaten the Raiders this season and who face them again in the season finale — a game that is more and more looking like it could be a big game.

Even with the slight margin for error the Raiders possess, there is reason to think they have a better shot than 12%.

First of all, the Chiefs are reeling. The Raiders already beat them and it was part of their having lost five of their last six. And there’s no indication they will suddenly pull out of their tailspin. Alex Smith went from MVP discussion to talk of benching him for first round pick Pat Mahomes.

That not only means the division is up for grabs, but the Raiders also face them again and that meeting isn’t nearly as scary as it once seemed. Likewise for the Cowboys who are proving to be a shell of their former selves without Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield.

Both the Raiders and the Chargers travel to Kansas City and both teams have one very tough game ahead of them. The Raiders head to Philadelphia and the Chargers face Washington — a team that is a lot better than their 5-6 record suggests. Those two games could both be losses for the Raiders and Chargers and they could very well have the same record going into the finale. At which point I would give a near 50/50 shot to win it. And conceivably the winner could take the division while the loser misses the playoffs.

As noted, that game in Los Angeles is going to be a Raiders home game. In fact, it could be downright nuts as it’s the Raiders’ first trip to LA in over 20 years. The Raiders lost their last meeting in part to a high snap to caused a missed extra point. Kicking problems is usually the Chargers’ thing.

Now, if some would like to make the Chargers the favorite in that finale game, fine. The Chargers have been surging lately, winning five of their last seven. But consider who they’ve beaten — the winless Giants, the Broncos in the middle of a now 7-game losing streak, the Bills with Nathan Peterman throwing five picks, and the Cowboys without Elliott. They have the same record as the Raiders and outside of their fluke one-point win over the Raiders should lay no greater claim to a playoff spot.

Let’s see how it plays out. Still five games to play and a lot of teams in the hunt.