The playoffs are clearly in the past tense for the Oakland Raiders (4-7) even if they win out because the AFC is so deep that a 10-6 team might not qualify. The Raiders host the Kansas City Chiefs (3-8) Sunday. The Chiefs, who were division winners last season, have been a huge disappointment. The Raiders went 4-12 last season but underwent a severe overhaul among players and coaches.
While the season has been less than what Oakland hoped, perhaps a strong finish could generate some kind of positive momentum that lacked last season. The Raiders became a serious player in the AFC West race Sunday without being an active participant.
Denver entered Sunday tied for the division lead with San Diego with both having 7-3 records. The Chargers now have sole possession of first place based on beating San Diego Sunday coupled with Oakland's win over Denver. The two teams meet in San Diego on Sunday but the Raiders beating Denver puts the pressure squarely on the Broncos' shoulders.
Which brings us to the next point: Was the Raiders win over Denver an aberration or a sign of a positive finish to a disappointing season forthcoming? It's a fair question considering that last season Oakland made Baltimore's road to the AFC North title tougher by beating the Ravens 20-12. For the Raiders, however, what followed was a Monday Night Football horror show of a 41-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers and a mutinous 21-14 loss to San Diego in the season finale.
Those who do not advocate a strong finish in these circumstances argue for a team to "tank" the rest of its games so it can get a higher draft choice. That logic, however is very flawed.
For starters, when a team is 4-7, it does not need to "try" to lose games. It has shown it can do that well enough on its own. The Raiders have several holes to fill and one impact player is not necessarily going to solve all of their problems.
Having the higher draft choice comes with no guarantee. For every Charles Woodson, there's Matt Stinchcomb. For every Tim Brown, there's John Clay. For every Peyton Manning, there's Ryan Leaf. Anyhow, you get the picture now. It's a hit and miss proposition.
Journeyman players such as offensive lineman Brad Badger need to put forth their best efforts to impress a team – whether it's the Raiders or another club. Rookies like, say, wide receiver Jake Grove or Tommy Kelly need to put forth their best efforts to impress the coaches in order to earn more playing time. Is it in any of those players' interest to "mail in the season?" Don't think so.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com