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Silver Minings: Raiders have clear path to AFC West crown

Chiefs don’t look good, Chargers regressing and Broncos selling

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Philadelphia Eagles v Las Vegas Raiders
Yannick Ngakoue
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Over the past several years, it’s been a running joke that the Las Vegas Raiders would lose even on the bye week. The team wasn’t very good and the season was essentially over by the time the week off came around, so the joke became an annual tradition year after year and honestly, was partially true. For a while, it felt like the Raiders would have some sort of bad luck during the bye, but that wasn’t the case this year.

In 2021, Las Vegas dominated the bye week.

For one, they managed to stay out of the headlines which is good news in light of recent events and always a fear when players and coaches get time off. Combine that with the Los Angeles Chargers losing, the Denver Broncos trading Von Miller and the Kansas City Chiefs needing a late-game score to beat the now 2-6 New York Giants, and the bye week couldn’t have been much better for the Raiders.

The Silver and Black are now in sole possession of first place in the AFC West - and hold second place in the conference standings - and the path to their first division championship since 2002 hasn’t been this clear in years.

Los Angeles is slipping after dropping their last two contests, including the most recent one against the Patriots where they had two weeks to prepare. Denver just got rid of one of the best players in franchise history, suggesting they’ve realized they aren’t ready to compete for a postseason berth this year.

Kansas City sits at .500 and hasn’t looked good in a single game this season, with a defense that can’t stop anybody and an offense that can’t stop turning the ball over. Plus, the Chiefs have the hardest remaining schedule in the NFL.

So, the table is set for the Raiders to take control of and earn the AFC West crown for the first time in nearly two decades.

Of course, the Week 4 loss in Los Angeles still stings and will play a big factor, but Las Vegas also gets to play each division rival at home in the final 10 games of the season, so there will be an opportunity for revenge and schedule slightly tilts in their favor. The Raiders also have a couple of bouts with the Chiefs on the docket, including a Sunday Night Football matchup in Sin City in two weeks.

That means the Silver and Black will have plenty of opportunities to distance themselves from the rest of their division rivals and there’s a chance Las Vegas could host its first-ever NFL playoff game.

Now, the question and the elephant in the room is, can the Raiders avoid the second-half collapse that has plagued them over the last two seasons?

We’ll have to watch and find out but this Sunday in New Jersey will be the team’s first opportunity to prove to everyone what Raider Nation has been saying over the last few weeks, this season is different.

In other Raiders’ links:

  • Javin White to get released: the Raiders activated the young linebacker from injured reserve, but the team plans to cut and add him to the practice squad, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur.
  • Clinton-Dix back, Brown out: Ha Ha was on the reserve/COVID-19 list but was restored to the practice squad, and defensive back Tony Brown was released to make room.
  • Tre’von Moehrig is obsessed with reptiles: the rookie safety sat down with Tafur for an interview and said he developed a passion for snakes, lizards and turtles in second grade, and he hopes to one day have a pond in his backyard for a pet crocodile or two. It makes a lot more sense why he chose TCU for college now.
  • PFF Mocks Nakobe Dean to Raiders: the site’s lead draft analyst, Mike Renner, released his first mock draft of the season and sent the Georgia linebacker to Las Vegas.