Their meeting in Oakland on Sunday, however, is not one of them. The two teams met a total of five times over the previous three seasons with the last such contest coming in January's AFC Divisional round, which the Raiders won 30-10 on the way to reaching the Super Bowl. The two teams also met in the regular season and Oakland prevailed 26-20 in that game.
How far have the mighty fallen?
Both teams are 2-6 and cannot afford another loss if they hope to reach the playoffs. Mathematically, there's still a chance of that happening but not realistically. Both teams have also had their share of injuries and in the Raiders case – turmoil.
Oakland's fall from grace is a little more surprising – but not much. The Jets, who won the AFC East last season, lost wide receiver Lavaurneous Coles, guard Randy Thomas and kickoff returner Chad Morton. Therefore, they would be hardpressed to repeat as division champs with teams like Buffalo, Miami and New England strengthening their clubs.
The Raiders also faced the same problem with Kansas City and Denver appearing to have strengthened their teams. Oakland, however, figured to at least make the postseason because it did not appear drastically weakened at any position.
Regardless of the reasons for such a heavy decline, it is simply a sign of the times in the NFL. Since the Denver Broncos won the second of back-to-back Super Bowls in 1998, both Super Bowl participants followed with a playoff appearance the ensuing year only once.
Repeating as division champions, which the Raiders did for three straight seasons, is exceedingly difficult. Look no further than last season's champs and where they are now:
AFC East: The Jets won the division but are 2-6 and trail front running New England (7-2) by 4-1/2 games. REPEATING ODDS – Well, let's just say there's a better chance of John Rocker running for New York City mayor.
AFC North: Pittsburgh won the division but at 2-6 trails first place Baltimore (5-3) by three games. REPEATING ODDS – Even though the division is terrible, don't bet on a Steeler repeat.
AFC South: Tennessee won the division and at 6-2 is one game behind first place Indianapolis (7-1). REPEATING ODDS – Still pretty good because the Titans still have one more game against Indianapolis.
AFC West: Oakland won its third straight division crown but trails unbeaten Kansas City by six games and visits KC later this month. REPEATING ODDS – Slim and none but slim is miles from the nearest exit.
NFC East: Philadelphia won the division a year ago but lost its first two games of the season and at 5-3 trails Dallas (6-2) by one game. REPEATING ODDS – The Cowboys have been quite a surprise but Philadelphia is not going away quietly and the two teams meet one more time.
NFC North: Green Bay ran away with the division last season. The 4-4 Packers climbed back into the race with a win over first place Minnesota (6-2) Sunday. REPEATING ODDS – Green Bay still has a pulse but still faces a steep climb to repeat as division champs.
NFC South: Tampa Bay won the division title on the way to steamrolling Oakland in the Super Bowl 48-21. The Buccaneers (4-4) trail first place Carolina (6-2) by two games and the two teams meet in Charlotte Sunday.REPEATING ODDS – Tampa's defense is not frightening teams any longer and Carolina won the first meeting. The Bucs, however, cannot afford to backslide now and a win over Carolina is mandatory.
NFC West: San Francisco won the division last season but at 4-5 trails first place Seattle (6-2) with one more head-to-head meeting in the season finale. REPEATING ODDS – The 49ers still have a pulse after dominating St. Louis 30-10 but it's still hard to consider them a credible division contender when they are just as likely to lose to teams they should beat. Playoff teams do not lose to teams they are supposed to beat.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com