Two games separate all clubs in the division. The Raiders are 9-4, San Diego Chargers 8-5, and the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, who play each other this week, 7-6. All have at least one division game left, with the Chiefs playing three.
The Raiders can earn their third playoff spot in as many years when they play at Miami with:
1. OAK win + DEN tie, OR
2. OAK win + DEN loss + SD loss or tie.
"This is the first time I've been through something like this," says 18-year wide receiver JERRY RICE of the Raiders on the wackiness of the AFC playoff race. "The majority of the time, by around the 12th game, you pretty much know where you are and your standing in the playoffs. It's totally different now."
OAKLAND AT MIAMI: Can they do to Ricky what they did to LaDainian?
Last week, the Raiders' No. 3 NFL rush defense effectively shut down the league's third-leading rusher, San Diego's LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON, limiting him to 57 yards. They will try to duplicate the feat against the NFL's top rusher, RICKY WILLIAMS (1,500), who comes off a spectacular 216-yard, two-TD effort Monday night that made him only the third man in history with two consecutive 200-yard rushing games (O.J. SIMPSON, 1973, 1976; EARL CAMPBELL, 1980).
"Ricky's at full speed when he gets the ball," says Chicago Bears linebacker BRIAN URLACHER. "He makes two moves while he's still in the backfield. He hits the crease and he's gone."
Oakland quarterback RICH GANNON, who last week set the NFL season record for 300-yard games (10) and is on target (5,175) for the all-time season passing yardage mark, confronts the league's No. 4 pass defense.