There are four games left in the regular season and the Las Vegas Raiders are in the driver seat. At 7-5, the Silver and Black need to regain their rhythm and clean up their mistakes to make a playoff push. There are a ton of scenarios that can play out, but this is the likeliest road to the playoffs for the Raiders.
What does the playoff picture currently look like?
First, we must understand the playoff picture. The Kansas City Chiefs, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Buffalo Bills are expected to win their divisions. The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts are currently both 8-4. Tennessee winning the AFC South would give the Raiders the best chance to lock up a playoff spot. They have a better divisional record than Indy, so the tiebreaker goes to them if they finish with identical records. So, for this week and going forward, go Titans!
With the four division leaders locked in, that leaves three wildcard spots up for grabs. The Browns are 9-3 and barring a collapse, they should have a spot secured. Even if they go 2-2 over their last four games, 11-5 should be enough for a ticket. That leaves two wild card slots with four teams in the hunt: Colts (8-4), Dolphins (8-4), Raiders (7-5), and Ravens (7-5). All four teams are hungry and coming off huge Week 13 wins.
If the Raiders beat the Colts on Sunday, they will immensely increase their chances for a playoff birth. A win would put their record even with the Colts, and hold the tie breaker. Owning the tie breaker would be huge and the Colts still have the Steelers in week 16.
A loss to the Colts would automatically make each of the last three games a must-win. Losing would also give the Colts a favorable chance at a playoff spot, sans an infamous Rivers end-of-season debacle. If the Silver and Black drop the ball on Sunday, the Monday night game will heavily influence their chances of making the playoffs.
What is the worst-case scenario for the Raiders?
Baltimore travels to Cleveland for Monday Night Football. A win for the Ravens and the ‘Horseshoe’ in Week 14 is the worst-case scenario for the Raiders. Following the Browns game, Harbaugh’s team has three straight games against teams with losing records and backup quarterbacks.
The Ravens have a chance to finish 4-0 if they defeat the Browns. The Raiders can go 3-1 in their last four, but four is a row is highly unlikely. It is imperative for this Las Vegas team to keep pace with the Ravens. They hold the tiebreaker over Baltimore thanks to having a better record against AFC teams.
Miami has the toughest schedule out of the aforementioned teams in the playoff hunt. They have the Chiefs, Patriots, Raiders, and Bills left on their schedule. The Dolphins are 7-1 in their last eight games, but these next two games will be Tua Tagovailoa’s toughest test to date. The Chiefs are defending champs and Bill Belichick eats rookie quarterbacks for breakfast, just ask Justin Herbert. A lot will happen before this Week 16 showdown between the Raiders and Dolphins, so the Silver and Black have no reason to lose sleep over the Dolphins, yet.
To summarize, the immediate concerns for Raider fans are the Colts and the Ravens. The best-case scenario for the boys in black is a win against Indy and a Baltimore loss. If Gruden and the gang can’t get it done on Sunday, they will desperately need the Ravens to lose. The absolute worst-case scenario would be a loss to the Colts and a Ravens victory. The Raiders would still have chance, but the odds would be slimmer than an index card.
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Top Photo: Rick Scuteri/Associated Press