Raiders still have a shot in mediocre AFC

As crazy as it has been Oakland for the first month of the season, there's an even more startling development taking place. Could the Raiders, despite all their distractions and a head coaching change, actually still have a legitimate shot at the playoffs?

Consider what happened across the league on Sunday:

San Diego got thumped by Miami, Arizona pummeled Buffalo, Indianapolis had to rally in the fourth quarter to beat Houston and Denver barely held on to squeak out a win over Tampa Bay. Throw in losses by Baltimore (to Tennessee), Cincinnati, Kansas City and a not-so-impressive win by New England (over San Francisco) and it's indicative of how bad the AFC is through the first five weeks.

Only one team outside of division leaders Tennessee (5-0), Buffalo (4-1), Denver (4-1) and Pittsburgh (3-1) had more than two wins after Week 5. That wasn't including the Sunday night game between the Steelers and Jacksonville, which went into the game with a 2-2 mark.

The Raiders are 1-3 and in third place in the AFC West and easily could be 3-1. Wouldas, couldas and shouldas don't cut it but the point is that with a twist or two here and there and Oakland could be right in the middle of the mix.

Outside of Tennessee, which has arguably the best defense in the NFL and is getting productive play-making out of former Raider Kerry Collins, there is no real dominant team that jumps out at you in the AFC.

Buffalo was unbeaten but that is gone now that the Bills were thoroughly and completely outclassed by Arizona. Indianapolis won but Peyton Manning and company are still a long way from their glory days. New England beat the 49ers but you wonder how long Matt Cassel can keep it going.

In the AFC West, the Chargers are not the team everyone expected. Shawne Merriman's loss has had a bigger impact that first thought, running back LaDainian Tomlinson is showing the effects of being a one-man show for so long and quarterback Philip Rivers is playing like, well, Philip Rivers.

Kansas City? No need to talk much about the Chiefs. If they aren't playing Denver at Arrowhead Stadium, they're not likely to win anything.

Denver is obviously at the top of the ladder but the Broncos have their own defects. A blown call by the refs helped them beat San Diego and they had to hold on to beat the Bucs on Sunday.

That means the door is pretty much open for Tom Cable and company. With the conflict between Al Davis and former head coach Lane Kiffin now done -- or at least until Kiffin files a grievance with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell -- the Raiders have the opportunity to take advantage of the mediocrity in the AFC.


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