Are the Oakland Raiders AFC playoff contenders?


The Oakland Raiders sit with a 3-3 record through 7 weeks, which is a huge improvement over last year’s 0-10 start. However, could the team actually end their thirteen-year playoff drought this season?

Thus far, the team led by head coach Jack Del Rio shocked people with their ability to compete and win games.

Oakland fields a stud receiver in Amari Cooper, a quarterback with the intangibles in Derek Carr, some explosive pass rushers in Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith combined with some savvy veterans on defense. Is that enough to permit playoff contention?

The truth is the Raiders are very close. They showed promise by finding ways to close out nail-bitters versus the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. In two of their three losses, the team remained in the game until the last moments. However, mistakes on defense and special teams cost the young team a 5-1 record.

Currently, Oakland sits just outside of the AFC playoff hunt, with the same record as the Miami Dolphins. If the playoffs began today, the New York Jets (4-2) and Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) would make the playoffs.

The Dolphins and Raiders would be on the outside looking in. The Buffalo Bills (3-4) are also right there in the conversation.

So what’s the good news? Oakland plays both of those teams in the later part of the schedule.

The Raiders also play winnable games against the Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions, who have one win apiece.

Plus, they still have a slate of division games left. AFC West games can go either way, regardless of how any of the teams are playing. Oakland plays a combined four more games against their division foes.

They crushed the San Diego Chargers last week, and the Raiders should do the same in Oakland come Christmas Eve. Further, the Raiders were two missed Sebastian Janikowski field goals away from beating the Denver Broncos. Then there are the 2-5 Kansas City Chiefs who the Raiders play twice towards the end of the season.

Beyond that, the Raiders have games against potential NFC playoff teams in the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.

The Raiders might be over-matched against the contending Packers, but Oakland must compete against that team to prove they belong in playoff conversations.

As for the Vikings, the Raiders are familiar with the team from a bout in preseason. Hence, that Week 10 game could go either way.

Therefore, the Raiders own real playoff potential. The team could tally 8 wins with victories over teams they should beat. That means handling business against the Titans, Lions, Chiefs and Chargers.

Last season, the Baltimore Ravens were the six seeded AFC playoff team with 10 wins. The year before, the Chiefs earned the second AFC Wild Card berth with 9 wins.

Hence, the Raiders would only need to squeeze out one or two wins over potential playoff teams on their schedule. If the Raiders can beat two opponents between the Broncos, Packers, Vikings, Jets and Steelers, the Raiders could sneak into the playoffs.

Nonetheless, there are still 10 games to play in the season. That is a long time in the NFL, and the team can not look too far ahead.

I do not want to be the one that jinxes it, but wouldn’t it be nice to see the Silver and Black playing for something in December and January? Can you really blame a fan for wanting to talk playoffs after 13 years of ridicule and disappointment?

Either way, the team seems to be getting better each week. Carr gets more comfortable with his new targets and offense each week. Michael Crabtree, Latavius Murray, and Cooper already proved playmaking ability at various times this season. Taiwan Jones, Marcel Reece, and Clive Walford should continue growing into their roles in the offense.

On defense, the team will get better with health. Nate Allen returns at safety shortly, so that sends T.J. Carrie back to his natural place at corner. Cornerbacks David Amerson and D.J. Hayden improved this week, so the Raiders could finally field a decent secondary. Justin Ellis will also boost the run defense when he finally returns.

Don’t look now but the Raiders are finally on the rise. Raider nation must keep it on the hush.

The Raiders are historically underdogs, and they like it that way. Regardless, the team might not slip under the radar much longer. The Oakland Raiders pose a real threat to shock the world with a playoff berth in 2015.

Schedule and team records via as of 10/28, unless otherwise stated.