Raiders Remain in the Thick of AFC Playoff Race with 3 Games Remaining

Source: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders were everything they hadn’t been over the previous two weeks in Monday’s win against the Cleveland Browns.

They controlled the pace of the game by running the ball efficiently, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt. Although it wasn’t the finest performance by the backs, it helped the Raiders control the clock for six more minutes than the Browns.

QB Derek Carr also made some explosive plays through the air and converted on six of 13 third-down attempts. But the biggest reason the Raiders won was that when they needed a stop, the defense stepped up and forced the Browns to go three-and-out. They got the ball back for the offense with a little less than two minutes remaining.

Carr knew he would get it done if the defense would just get him the ball back and give him one more chance.

“After that interception, I told the guys, ‘Please, I promise we’ll win it, just get the ball back,'” Carr said in his post-game interview.

Carr did deliver, even overcoming a questionable holding penalty on LT Kolton Miller that negated a 17-yard pass from Carr to WR Zay Jones.

All in all, the Raiders played the perfect game in all three phases, which led to the Raiders claiming victory over a Cleveland Browns squad that was looking to take first place in the AFC North. Although narrow, this win has ultimately kept the Raiders’ hopes of a playoff berth alive. A playoff appearance for the Silver and Black isn’t completely out of question.

“I’m real excited for our guys to win a game in that fashion and play with the effort that they played with all the way until the bitter end, even when it looked like it probably was going to go the other way,” interim head coach Rich Bisaccia said after the game. “It’s been a long time coming to win a game like that at the end.”

The Raiders currently sit in the 10th spot in the AFC behind the Colts, Chargers, Bills, who hold the 5, 6, and 7 seeds in the AFC, respectively. The other five teams on the bubble include the Ravens, Steelers, Dolphins, Browns, and Broncos. What’s most fascinating about these five teams on the bubble is that the Raiders have beaten all of them. If it comes down to a conference tiebreaker, the Raiders will get in.

Playoff tiebreakers are pivotal as identical records are very common in the NFL. Playoff seeding among divisional and conference teams have two different sets of rules.

For divisional tiebreakers, it comes down to head-to-head record, then overall divisional record. For the Raiders, they currently have no shot at winning the division. If the Raiders win the next three games, and Kansas City (who currently leads the division) loses the next three, both teams would have an identical record at 10-7.

However, the Chiefs beat the Raiders both times, hence they’d get in over Las Vegas. The Chargers still have a shot at winning the division. The only hope for the Raiders is to fight for one of the three remaining seeds: number 5, 6, or 7.

Luckily for the Raiders, they have beat the Ravens, Steelers, Dolphins, Browns, and Broncos, and the head-to-head record is the first tiebreaker used to determine which team with identical records gets in.

Now those are technically not the only teams fighting for the 5, 6, or 7 seeds. The Titans, Bengals, and Patriots could still end up the lower seeds, as they haven’t locked up their divisions.

Now for the Raiders, they sort of hold their fate in their own hands going into the final three games of the season. Win the rest of your games and you finish 10-7. And because of the teams you play – Chargers, Colts, and Broncos – you are likely going to be in.

Although the Raiders wouldn’t be mathematically eliminated if they lose one of their next three games, their chances would be very slim. Lose any of the three remaining games and you can almost kiss the playoffs goodbye.

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