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Las Vegas Raiders in the 2022 NFL playoffs? In-depth analysis of how it’s possible

15 weeks of football have come and gone, leaving the Las Vegas Raiders on the outside of the playoff picture and looking in.

Whether in Las Vegas or Oakland, the Raiders have made an art form of losing football games over the last two decades. During the organization’s ’22 campaign, this art form was taken to the next level by doing things such as suffering a defeat at the hands of a head coach who had never coached any level of football above high school and who also remains winless as an NFL coach to this day, outside of his win against Las Vegas, and, more impressively, breaking the NFL record for most contests lost in a single season where the team has a 10+ point lead at halftime.

Thanks to these losses, the Raiders currently find themselves with a record of 6-8.

Despite being two games under .500 with three weeks left in the regular season, the Silver and Black still have a legitimate chance of earning a spot in the 2022 NFL playoffs. What needs to happen for Las Vegas to take part in this year’s postseason? Glad you asked; here’s everything you need to know.

The Raiders still have a chance at punching their ticket to the 2022 NFL postseason

It’s hard to believe a team with eight losses in 14 contests still has a real chance at earning a wildcard spot. Thanks to the postseason expansion agreed upon in 2020, which gives the top-seven seeds of each conference a pass to the playoffs as opposed to the top-six, there are a few different paths available for Las Vegas that lead to the postseason.

We’ll go over all of them.

Winning is the main ingredient to a Raiders’ playoff berth

First and foremost, the Raiders must win each of their final three contests for these paths to remain open. If Las Vegas drops just one game, the highest number of wins the team can finish its ’22 campaign with is eight. All three of the current wildcard teams in the AFC have already earned at least eight wins this season, and a win by the Chargers and Dolphins would officially eliminate the Raiders in this scenario.

To put it mildly, this is not an ideal situation.

The remaining schedule for Las Vegas consists of the Steelers, 49ers and Chiefs. Pittsburgh is first on the list, hosting the Raiders on Saturday night this week. With a win over Carolina on Sunday, the Steelers also hold a record of 6-8. It’s still unknown if Kenny Pickett will play or not, but either way, this is by far the easiest matchup the Silver and Black will have in the final three weeks of the season.

Next up is San Francisco, currently led by rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. Being the final selection in the annual NFL Draft doesn’t have to define your career, and Purdy is proving that to a tee. The 22-year-old is responsible for seven total touchdowns and two interceptions, logging two scores through the air in each of the three games he took over as San Francisco’s signal caller. Most importantly, the 49ers are 3-0 under Purdy and have yet to be on the losing end of a contest.

All chips on the table in Week 18

To cap off the 2022 regular season, the Raiders will host their division rivals from Kansas City. The fate of your season depending on whether or not you beat Patrick Mahomes is certainly a scary thought, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a winnable contest.

When the Raiders and Chiefs dueled earlier in the year, Kansas City walked away with a mere one-point victory. Furthermore, Las Vegas had a 17-point lead at halftime, proving they can be successful against their division rivals who clinched the AFC West this weekend.

If everything else goes according to plan, all chips will be on the table in this Week 18 showdown. Now, let’s get into the things that have to happen outside of the Silver and Black winning out.

Three teams must drop one game

As it stands, the Patriots, Jets, and Jaguars all sit ahead of Las Vegas in the AFC. In order to overtake the other three, each must lose at least one of their three remaining contests.

The Jaguars finish 2022 by battling the Jets, Texans, and Titans. Ideally, because the Jets are one of the three teams that must lose at least once, Raider Nation should hope to beat the Texans and Titans to knock off Jacksonville. If that happens, not only do the Jaguars fall below Las Vegas, but they take the Jets with them.

Miami is one of the three teams the Jets play to end their season, and this is a game where a Jets win likely benefits the Raiders more than a Dolphins win; we’ll dive deeper into that soon. Given this, it’s just another reason why Jacksonville knocking off the Jets is ideal. If New York claims victory against Jacksonville, that’s still ok; the third club the Jets will face is Seattle, and a Seahawks win doesn’t affect the AFC playoff picture.

What about the Patriots?

New England is the final team who must finish 2022 with at least one more loss. Las Vegas personally gave the Patriots a loss on Sunday, but Belichick and Co. are still one game ahead of the Raiders. The future Hall of Fame coach in New England will prepare his team for a fight against the Bengals, followed by meetings with the Bills and Dolphins. Just like with the Jets, a Patriots win likely benefits Las Vegas more than a Miami win, so a loss against the Bengals or Bills, who hold a top-three seed in the AFC, is ideal.

If all three of these teams suffer at least one loss during the final three weeks of the regular season, Las Vegas will be alive and well as long as the team handles its business. However, these aren’t the only things that need to happen in order for the Raiders to earn a wildcard spot this year.

One-of-two clubs must lose a pair of contests

Overtaking the three aforementioned squads is important, but it doesn’t propel the Raiders to the playoffs just yet. If everything mentioned works in Las Vegas’ favor, the team will only move up to eighth in the AFC.

The reason why it’s more beneficial for both the Jets and Patriots to beat Miami and suffer losses elsewhere, as opposed to the Dolphins beating both of these clubs, is that Miami must drop two games this season for the Raiders to take their wildcard spot. If things shake up as discussed, that’s exactly what will happen, and Las Vegas will return to the postseason. In the event only one of those two teams manages to beat Miami, the Dolphins will still have to beat Green Bay. If Miami doesn’t lose two contests, that’s ok: there’s another path.

Las Vegas beat the Chargers during the final week of the 2021 season to knock them out of the postseason, and now, Los Angeles can return the favor with a pair of wins. If Miami doesn’t drop at least two of their final three contests, then all hope rests on two-of-three teams beating the Chargers. Those teams are the Colts, Rams and Broncos, who each have four wins through 14 contests. Needless to say, this isn’t a favorable situation for the Raiders to find themselves in, but stranger things have certainly happened – just ask Chandler Jones.

To summarize: If the Jaguars, Jets and Patriots each drop at least one game, and the Dolphins or Chargers drop at least two while Las Vegas continues winning their own battles, the Raiders punch their ticket into the 2022 NFL playoffs. If not, mark it as another season where the Silver and Black miss the fun in mid-January.

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*Top Photo: NBC Sports/Boston

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