Weeks 14-17: The Home Stretch
The Raiders will play three divisional games in the last four weeks, thanks to the wisdom of the NFL in moving divisional matchups to the later part of the season to create drama-filled matchups for divisional titles. The Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos (maybe) could all be in a three-dog fight for the AFC West title at this point, and the Raiders and Chiefs could go a long way toward settling it in their week 14 matchup in Kansas City on a Thursday night.
The Chiefs are notoriously tough to beat in Arrowhead Stadium, and between the crowd noise and the Chiefs defense the Raiders will have a difficult time. The Chiefs may have dropped one to the Raiders earlier in the year in Oakland, but it won’t happen the second time. Look for the Chiefs defense to give Carr and the Raiders offense their worst game of the season here, as the Raiders on a short week, on the road, struggle to find any rhythm.
Prediction: Chiefs 20, Raiders 10.
Now trailing in the AFC West race, the Raiders will need a win on the road in San Diego in order to catch back up with the Chiefs. The Chargers at this point in the season could very well be completely out of the playoff hunt, but they were completely out of the playoff hunt late last year and still gave the Raiders a game, in Oakland.
But the Raiders of 2016 will have a lot more on the line, and won’t drop two straight in the division while in a fight for a division title. The Chargers are still just not a better team than the Raiders and that won’t change, even in San Diego, especially if stadium negotiations or the proposed ballot measure for a new San Diego stadium fail by this point in the year and the fans know their team is moving to LA. Look for the Raiders to get a big win here to get 9 wins for the first time in forever.
Prediction: Raiders 48, Chargers 20.
The Raiders come home in Week 16 for the home finale, in what could potentially be another O.Co Coliseum finale (remember, the Raiders can opt out of their lease after this season if another opportunity presents itself) against the Colts. The Colts are a hard team to predict: Andrew Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but he’s notoriously interception-prone and the team is not very good overall outside of Luck and TY Hilton.
Luck will make mistakes against the Raiders, faced with that pass rush, and Derek Carr, looking to assert himself as the premier young field general in the league, will exploit those mistakes. The Colts may be doing much better at this point than they were last year, but the team still has some serious flaws, and the Raiders will be buoyed by the energy of their home fans excited over seeing a winning team for the first time in well over a decade.
Prediction: Raiders 34, Colts 26.
In the regular season finale, the Raiders will hit the road to Denver to face the Broncos at Mile High, where the Raiders defeated the Broncos last year. The Broncos may not be in a very good position by this point in the season if they can’t figure something out at quarterback, but that defense is good enough that the Broncos may still be above .500 at the end of the year, and hoping to grab a wild card spot.
The Raiders and Broncos will probably enter into another slugfest full of sacks and turnovers and maybe a safety, but the Raiders haven’t swept the Broncos since 2010, and the Broncos defense is just too good to lose to the same team twice. Look for the Raiders to drop the finale.
Prediction: Broncos 16, Raiders 13.
Weeks 14-17 record: 2-2
Overall record: 10-6, AFC Wild Card.