2nd Place in AFC West
Last Game: Bye
Next Game: vs. Houston Texans (6-3), Monday, November 21, 8:30 EST — Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico
The Raiders went into their bye week after their most complete game of the season, a 30-20 dismantling of the Broncos where they imposed their will on the defending champions on both sides of the ball.
It was a great first half of the season for the Raiders. Better, frankly, than anyone could have expected. Now they can come out of the bye rested, healthy, and perhaps with some key pieces back on defense.
Stacy McGee has been an unsung and underrated Raider all season. With Dan Williams not the man he once was, and Jihad Ward and Justin “Jelly” Ellis struggling a bit, McGee, Denico Autry and UDFA Darius Latham are the Raiders best and most consistent interior lineman thus far.
There is also excitement for the return of Mario Edwards Jr. to help bolster the front seven. McGee practiced with the team recently, but Edwards remains sidelined with trainers. Just activated from IR, Edwards has a hip injury that is taking him longer than hoped to rehab. His versatility and pass-rush ability is sorely missed.
Aldon Smith has applied for reinstatement, though there has been no word as of yet. Regardless, a Raiders defense that has shown vast improvement over the past three weeks could potentially return at least one and as many as three key cogs in the defensive machine for the stretch run.
The Raiders non-divisional schedule is very winnable — the Texans, Panthers, Colts and Bills all at home, amidst tough road matchups against the Broncos and Chiefs. The Raiders are currently the first wild card team, and have a two-game lead for a wild card spot over the Dolphins and Titans.
Of the three division contenders, the Raiders have the softest non-divisional schedule remaining, and with three games in the last four weeks against divisional foes, control their own destiny.
As evident by their winning two-point conversion, OT walk-off TD, and multiple fourth quarter comebacks, they wouldn’t have it any other way, and have positioned themselves nicely for a stretch run to the divisional title.