September 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio (left) pats free safety Charles Woodson (24) during the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Since Day One, head coach Jack Del Rio preached the importance of building a winning culture with the Oakland Raiders. The 6-8 Raiders can not obtain a winning record in year one of Del Rio’s regime, as only two games remain. However, they can prevent a consecutive losing season with two wins.
It will not be easy. The Raiders face two AFC West Division Rivals that they are familiar with.
First, they play the San Diego Chargers who they defeated earlier in the season. Fresh off a 30-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Oakland will not have much time for preparation against the Chargers.
Not only will the game be nationally televised for Thursday Night Football, but it will be Charles Woodson‘s final game at home. In fact, the game could be the Raiders final game in the O.co Coliseum period, as they explore a potential stadium in Los Angeles.
Yet, the Raiders will not have time to focus on any of that. The Chargers could easily upset them in the Raiders’ final game in Oakland.
Then the Raiders travel for a game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders collapsed in their matchup against the Chiefs earlier this season. It was a loss that pretty much eliminated the Raiders from the playoffs.
Now, the Raiders might have a chance to impact playoff seeding by beating the Chiefs. Either way, an Oakland would be a bad taste to put into a division rival’s mouth as they advance to the postseason.
Obviously, the Raiders want to win every game. Yet, why are these wins extra important?
Forget the Raiders wanting a top ten draft pick. We have had plenty of those over the years. The Raiders need these wins for confidence. They will still find a key defensive player with a draft pick closer to No. 20.
Last season, the Raiders won three of their last six games. It is not impressive, except when you consider they started the season losing ten straight. The young team then carried the momentum and confidence carried the offseason.
The same affect could happen this season. These games may be meaningless for the standings, but not for players’ jobs. The Raiders are a young team who need as many reps possible. More reps allows coaches a better evaluation of young players’ development. Plus, it helps young players build confidence before the offseason program.
Speaking of young players, an 8-8 record will help Khalil Mack‘s campaign for Defensive Rookie of the Year. It will also help Amari Cooper seal Rookie of the Year or Offensive Rookie of the Year. Of course awards are not the Raiders’ focus. Regardless, awards help the Raiders receive national recognition which is important for leverage in stadium negotiations. Securing a .500 record will only add to their resume.
Added, the AFC West could be up for grabs next season. The Denver Broncos face an awkward quarterback situation, the Chiefs have key defensive players hitting free agency, and the Chargers are always inconsistent. Hence, the importance of Oakland securing a sweep of the Chargers and splits with the Chiefs and Broncos can not be understated. That would be huge progress for Del Rio and the Raiders franchise.
Finally, the Raiders must win these two games to prove Del Rio’s talk. He preached the importance of a winning culture and guys bought in. Now everyone must show it by competing in games that will not impact the standings. Even if the Raiders decide to evaluate young talent, they can not suffer any let downs in the final two games of the season.
Just Win Baby!