In case you've been living in an igloo for the last month, the Raiders (4-4) have lost four straight after a dominant 4-0 start. While Monday night's game is not a mathematical elimination contest, Oakland could fall deeper into the Black Hole – and we're not talking about the South end zone at Network Associates Coliseum.
Denver (5-2) leads the Raiders by 1-1/2 games while San Diego (6-2) has a two, well essentially three, game lead based on beating Oakland head-to-head. For those keeping count, Oakland has not won in Denver since 1994. If the Raiders win Monday's game, they can still position themselves to make a run at the playoffs.
If they lose, well, let's say right now that they should make sure their TVs have a good reception come January because the only playoff involvement they figure to have may be in a spectator role. A loss Monday night would also drop the Raiders, who have several fans who conveniently believe the crosstown neighbor San Francisco 49ers are a bigger rival than Denver, to 0-3 in the AFC Western division. In addition, a loss would drop Oakland to, theoretically, four games back in the AFC West hunt. Make that deficit up in seven games? There's a better chance of finding a four-leaf clover in a wheat field.
"Any time you lose four in a row, you're going to have people upset," Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said. "No one is going to feel sorry for you. Denver is not going to sit back and say, ‘How about those poor Raiders?'"
History suggests the Raiders will need to go 6-2, at minimum, in the second half of the season. Can they? Yes, anything is possible. Will they? Possible but not probable. Such a record would give Oakland a 10-6 record. Since the NFL has expanded the playoff format to six teams per conference, 37 teams have won 10 games in a season and only two (the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers) failed to reach the postseason. That notion suggests 10 wins normally gets a team into the postseason but can the Raiders overcome their inconsistency? Won't take long to find out.
There have been 39 teams to win nine games and 27 made the playoffs. That idea suggests your playoff chances are better than but you must hope to have tiebreakers in you favor – of which Oakland has zilch in its division. There have been 39 teams to have an eight-win season and only four made the playoffs. That notion implies that an eight-win season almost assuredly means you will be watching the playoffs from home while eating nachos.