Despite loss, Oakland Raiders still have a path to the sixth seed

NASHVILLE, TN- SEPTEMBER 10: Quarterback Derek Carr No. 4 of the Oakland Raiders gets calls a play against the Tennessee Titans in the second half at Nissan Stadium on September 10, 2017 In Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) )
NASHVILLE, TN- SEPTEMBER 10: Quarterback Derek Carr No. 4 of the Oakland Raiders gets calls a play against the Tennessee Titans in the second half at Nissan Stadium on September 10, 2017 In Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) ) /

The Oakland Raiders suffered a humbling defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, yet they are still in a decent position to make the playoffs as the sixth seed.

Sunday’s final score was 40-9 and the loss essentially took all remaining wind out of the playoff sails for the Oakland Raiders. With only 12 points in the last two games, Derek Carr looking more like a rookie quarterback than the six-year starter he is, and the mounting number of absurd penalties against the team, the expectations of a playoff berth have all but dissipated.

Falling to 6-6 is by no means a positive by any stretch of the imagination, but the Raiders are not out of the playoff conversation quite yet. With four games remaining, the Raiders could conceivably finish the season at 10-6, which would likely be good enough to obtain the final playoff seed.

As Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton points out, the Raiders are far from out of the conversation. Let’s dissect the remaining schedules for the teams still in the hunt and examine the Raiders chances of earning that sixth and final seed for the playoffs.

Let’s start with the current sixth seed, the Pittsburgh Steelers. In their final four they will travel to Arizona, New York, and Baltimore while hosting Buffalo. In order, that is away to the Cardinals, home versus the Bills and then away to the Jets and Ravens to close out.

Despite how well third string quarterback Devlin Hodges has been playing, that is a tough stretch. Best case scenario for the Raiders, Pittsburgh lose out, but in reality 2-2 seems far more likely with wins over Arizona and New York and losses to Buffalo and Baltimore. Keep in mind, however, that final week against Baltimore could see the Ravens resting some of their key players with the division likely already wrapped up. That means the Steelers close the season at 9-7.

Next, the Titans who are currently also 7-5 but hold the seventh seed. They travel to Oakland, host division leaders Houston and New Orleans, and then close by traveling to Houston. That is a very tough stretch and could very well leave the team at 0-4 with a 7-9 record on the year. The crucial game will be in Oakland this weekend, as the winner of that one will have a huge advantage going into the final three.

The last team to worry about is the Colts who are currently 6-6, but are behind the Raiders because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Colts travel to Tampa Bay and New Orleans, then return home to host Carolina before closing the year away to Jacksonville.

That is a tough stretch as the Buccaneers are unpredictable, the Saints and Panthers are solid, and the Jaguars have gone back to Gardner Minshew so anything can happen. Lets say they split their home and away games, beating the Panthers and Jaguars to finish at 8-8. That likely won’t be enough to bring home the final playoff berth.

Finally, let’s take a look at the Raiders. This coming week they host Tennessee and then Jacksonville the week after that, then travel to Los Angeles for a ‘road’ game against the Chargers, and then travel to Denver in Week 17.

This week against Tennessee will be pivotal. If the Raiders win and move to 7-6, the Titans will fall to 7-6 and will be behind the Raiders in the head-to-head tiebreaker like the Colts. That leaves the 4-8 Jaguars, 4-8 Chargers, and 4-8 Broncos as the final three matchups. All of these games are very doable and is by far the easiest remaining schedule of the teams in the hunt.

Unfortunately, 9-7 likely will not be enough to overtake the Steelers for the final spot. The tiebreaker would come down to conference record as the teams did not play each other this season. Currently, the Steelers have a conference record of 6-3 while the Raiders are at 4-4. The Raiders remaining games are all within the conference while the Steelers only play three.

If the Steelers lose two of their final four, and they both come against conference foes, their final record would be 9-7 with a 7-5 conference record. If the Raider win three of their final four, they would also finish 9-7 with a 7-5 conference record meaning the tiebreaker would come down to win percentage in common games.

Point is, the Raiders are very much still in the thick of the wild card race. Winning three of the last four is likely to be the bare minimum to earn a berth and would also require the Steelers and Texans to lose. Winning out would likely get the job done and put the Raiders back in the playoffs, but if they only manage to win three, one of those wins must come against the Titans.

The situation is tight, but the opportunity is there for the taking. Don’t rule them out yet, the Raiders still have a shot at the tournament for the first time since 2016 and second time since 2002.

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