Are Raiders Really AFC West Contenders?

Yes, the Oakland Raiders are only one game out of first place with the midpoint of the season approaching.

Yes, this is the AFC Worst where 8 wins could be enough to earn home date in the playoffs.

The above facts are undeniable. So too is Oakland’s recent history of being unable to take control of their own destiny. All it took was one more win last season and Hue Jackson would likely still have a real NFL job. All it took the year before that was taking care of business and getting a little help.

In both instances the Raiders came up short.

So, here we are again with yet another crop of last luster football teams gathering in the AFC’s western most division.

What we all really want to know is how good the odds are of the Raiders actually coming out on top for the first time in a decade. On paper it might appear as if Oakland has closed the gap but the reality is the real tests have yet to begin.

Two straight wins and a respectable showing in Atlanta have certainly raised both hopes and expectations but let’s not get too pregnant with joy. The Raiders have just beaten the two worst teams in football one of which they were down two scores to in the second half.

Kansas City and Jacksonville are competing for the top pick in the draft and that’s about it this season. Nobody is going to confuse Dennis Allen with John Madden just yet.

Still the Raiders deserve credit because these are the exact types of games they’d find a creatively painful way to lose in years past. Taking care of business against lesser competition is necessary to keep any playoff hopes alive.

On Sunday Tampa Bay comes to the East Bay for the latest installment of the former Chucky Bowl. Many are already chalking up a win but that is foolish thinking. Tampa is a talented team that is fresh off the destruction of the surprising Minnesota Vikings. This won’t be easy by any measure.

Beyond that the Raiders have a trip to Baltimore, a home date against New Orleans and a trip to Cincinnati on the horizon. In less than a month Oakland could either be right in the hunt or back to the basement where their only company might be Kansa City.

Then there’s the whole issue of hoping the Denver Broncos aren’t finding the Peyton Manning sweet spot. Denver’s improved play has put the entire league on alert. Oh and let’s not forget what happened during the Raiders mile high adventure earlier this season.

For now let’s just appreciate the improvements this team has made since the bye week. Thinking long term is not advised at the moment. This is a week-to-week evaluation process for Coach Allen during his first season. Now if we’re looking at anything similar in the standings come December then we can reopen AFC West title talks. Until then Raider Nation should temper expectations while hoping for the best. We’ve been here before.

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Tags: AFC West Oakland Raiders

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