Sitting at 6-8 and with two games left to play, the Raiders are faced with a critical franchise directional decision. Winning out would bring them to 8-8; they would definitely be on the road less traveled into the playoffs, but they would also secure a non-premium spot in the middle of the draft.
On the other hand, losing the remaining games would help Oakland’s draft position tremendously. With remaining games against the Chargers and the Denver Broncos, they could not only get into the Top 10 with a (6-10) record, but it would also potentially gain them two additional spots by dropping them below their rivals.
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Splitting the games is the most likely of scenarios and for the organization, it is a face saving move. Moreover, the Raiders rookie class isn’t used to losing. No player likes to lose and they really care less about the team’s draft positioning. A win against Los Angeles would help Oakland get their last win in Southern California before moving to Las Vegas. Losing to Denver next week could increase the chances of getting a pick around the Top 10 and leave them in a good spot not to be forced to overdraft a player.
The winding road to the playoffs
In Week 16 the Raiders would need:
- To beat the Chargers
- The Steelers to lose to the Jets
- The Titans to lose to the Saints
- The Colts to beat the Panthers
- The Browns to lose to the Ravens/Browns
In Week 17 they would need:
- To beat the Broncos
- Titans to lose to the Texans
- Steelers to lose to the Ravens
- Browns to lose to the Bengals/Ravens
- Colts to beat the Jaguars
Breaking it down
In Week 16, all of the playoff scenarios the Raiders don’t control will be decided before they take the field. All of the other games have a 10:00am PST start time. It will make it easy for coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock to assess whether this game is for pride or for draft order.
Just to straddle the fence a little bit, let’s say the things break the Raiders way and they do get a win. Heading into Week 17 with a chance, once again, the games outside of Raiders control will be decided before opening kickoff at Invesco Field.
It’s simple, there really are two scenarios in my opinion which aren’t going to happen. The Jets beating the Steelers and the Raiders taking care of their own business. To be honest, the Steelers, who have overcome injury after injury and are winning games with the bottom of their roster, aren’t likely to succumb to the up and down Jets.
Likewise, Oakland’s offensive line struggled mightily against the Chargers pass rush when they had all the starters in. This week they are without Richie Incognito and Trent Brown. Meanwhile, Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson are playing through pain. To further complicate things, Josh Jacobs is most likely done for the season and Carr isn’t throwing to anyone other than Darren Waller and Tyrell Williams.
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This team was always rebuilding for Vegas and thanks to the guidance and leadership of Mayock and Gruden, it is ahead of schedule. Trent Brown and Rodney Hudson were named to the Pro Bowl. There were four alternates named as well, much maligned guard Richie Incognito, undrafted fullback Alec Ingold, tight end Darren Waller, offensive rookie of the year candidate Josh Jacobs.
The team’s future will be built off their foundation, but if you take the field against the Broncos with the playoffs on the line, not going for it should cause a mutiny.