A Winning Raiders Season, An AFC West Battle, And Other Headlines

Amongst the chaos that was the 2021 season, the Las Vegas Raiders have found a way to stay alive in the playoff race. Losing four of five games has now turned into a three-game win streak. As the Silver and Black prepare for their final regular season game, let’s take a look at the biggest headlines heading into Week 18.

First Winning Season Since 2016

The regular season has been filled with tremendous highs followed by ridiculous lows. The Raiders began the season at 3-0 with Derek Carr playing the best football of his career. Then, the bye week came, and the Raiders looked no better than in 2018, when they went 4-12.

Some weren’t confident they would win another game, but somehow, here we are.

The Raiders now sit at 9-7 and have secured their first winning season since 2016. With one game left, the Raiders can end the season over .500 with a win or a loss. Although we all know that 10-7 would feel much better.

Closing out in the division

The Raiders will close out their regular season against the Los Angeles Chargers, also 9-7. The Chargers ended the Raiders’ three-game win streak at the beginning of the season and are surely looking to do so again.

Las Vegas has been playing better football by the week, while the Chargers look to be headed in the opposite direction. Losing to the Chiefs and the Texans back-to-back slid their record to 8-7, tied with Las Vegas.

Each team won their Week 17 games, putting them head-to-head for the final AFC Playoff position. Second-year quarterback Justin Herbert will be a big test for the Raiders’ defense, which has been the highlight of the team all year. In Week 4, the Raiders blitzed Herbert a season-high nine times. Something to watch for as Gus Bradley tries to stop one of the best emerging quarterbacks in the league.

Darren Waller’s Return?

The Raiders’ star tight end hasn’t seen the field since November after getting injured on Thanksgiving. While there was speculation he might return to practice last week, he tested positive for COVID on Tuesday and wasn’t activated until Wednesday.

After being activated on Wednesday, he finally returned to the practice field as a limited participant on Wednesday. This leaves the door wide-open for him to play this week on Sunday Night Football. “Tomorrow (Thursday) will be a big test,” Rich Bisaccia told the media on Wednesday.

If all goes well, Waller will be available against the Chargers, who have notoriously struggled defensively against tight ends.

*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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