Denver, along with the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals, can become the top seed in the conference and earn the right to host every conference playoff game in which it appears if it finishes with the best record. That makes this weekend’s contest against the visiting Raiders, and the games that follow, “must-wins.”
For its part, Oakland is now playing simply for pride because its Won-Loss record of 5-7 has it five games behind the Broncos in the West Division of the AFC with just four games remaining to be played and well behind several other teams in its quest to win one of two available Wild Cards.
But the fact that Oakland appears to be “out of the playoff hunt” should not impact the way this young squad performs when it takes the field against Denver a few days from now. The Raiders still have a chance to capture a Wild Card and make it to the postseason even though they currently have a losing record.
This team has to win all four of its remaining games and hope that the teams it trails lose some of their remaining games. It can happen, but it is a long-shot. And yet, this squad from northern California is young, developing and filled with players determined to “make their mark” in the league like rookie first round pick Amari Cooper.
Individual Raiders know that their team can still impact the final standings by beating squads that have a chance to play in January. A victory against the home team Broncos this Sunday won’t keep Denver out of the playoffs, but it could rob them of home field advantage when the postseason begins next month.
The knowledge that beating playoff-bound teams can help determine which squad makes it all the way to the Super Bowl should be reason enough for each Oakland Raider to perform with desire, determination and “fire in his belly.”
Of course, if Oakland wins its last four games, there is still the chance that this team could find itself playing in January. It is improbable, but it is not impossible.
When one considers what is at stake, it is easy to believe that the contest between Oakland and Denver will be a real “barn-burner” played before a packed stadium of energized and excited fans.
And while it seems that he is still recuperating from a foot problem, there is the slight chance that Peyton Manning will be calling signals for the home team instead of backup Brock Osweiler who has given solid performances the past few games while Manning is recovering. Only time will tell if Manning is back under center for this game or if he’ll be cheering on his team from the sideline.
Courtesy of the Oakland Raiders