On Sunday night, the Las Vegas Raiders will begin a three-game stretch against three teams that are in serious contention to make the playoffs in the AFC this season. For the Silver and Black, a 3-5 start to the season had potentially buried any chance of them playing meaningful football in January, but the firing of Josh McDaniels has reinvigorated this franchise going into Week 10.
In Week 9, interim head coach Antonio Pierce made his head coaching debut, and did so in style against his former team. Pierce led the Raiders to a 30-6 victory over the New York Giants, dominating from the outset in a performance we have not seen from this franchise since the 2021 NFL season.
That season, the move to an interim head coach turned the Raiders into a playoff team, as Rich Bisaccia led the team to four straight wins to close out the regular season. For Pierce, his run must come earlier in the season, as Week 10, 11, and 12 bring competition that will either make or break this Raiders season.
Raiders have a tough three-game stretch before the bye week
Week 13 is the Raiders bye week this season, and by then, we will know whether or not this team has a legitimate shot to make the playoffs in a wide open AFC. While the Jets game is very winnable, after the home matchup against Zach Wilson and company, the Raiders travel to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins in Week 11.
The Dolphins have been one of the more explosive teams in the NFL this season, and present any opponent with tough matchups, especially on offense. After that game, the Raiders return home before the bye week, but have to welcome in Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, a tough matchup for the Raiders over the past decade.
Still, this is why you play the games, and by the end of this three-game stretch, we will either be talking about a Raiders team that has come together under Pierce to become a legitimate playoff contender, or start talking about the 2023 NFL Draft.
In the five games after the bye week, there are some winnable contests, including against the Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, and both the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers at home. This could be the start of something special for Las Vegas, and if Pierce does lead this team on a run, the Raiders have to bring him back in a full time role in 2024.
However, let us see what the next three weeks bring first.