Raiders need win, help to return to playoffs
ALAMEDA, Calif. — The final week of the season for the Oakland Raiders has been mostly about the status of the coach, personal goals and planning for the offseason the past eight years.
There's plenty more on the line this season.
With a win at home in the finale against San Diego and a little bit of help from some other teams, the Raiders (8-7) can make the playoffs for the first time since their 2002 AFC championship season.
Oakland still has a chance to win the AFC West or make the postseason as a wild-card team depending on what happens Sunday. While some of the potential scenarios are complicated, the simple fact is this: If the Raiders lose to the Chargers, they will be eliminated.
"I am not going to get caught up in all the different scenarios," coach Hue Jackson said Monday. "I know they're out there. I think I would be remiss as the leader of this football team if I just jumped over in that boat. I think the boat I have to jump in is getting this team to play as hard and well as it can play this weekend."
The Raiders nearly lost any chance over the weekend in Kansas City before being saved by a pair of blocked field goals by Richard Seymour and a 53-yard pass from Carson Palmer to Darrius Heyward-Bey on the first play of overtime to set up Sebastian Janikowski's winning kick in a 16-13 win.
Oakland won that game despite committing 15 penalties and allowing another late touchdown drive that let Kansas City tie the game in the closing minutes.
"We're relentless, man," safety Tyvon Branch said. "Things don't always go our way, but we always fight, we fight to the end, and that's one thing I can say about us."
Oakland will be fighting until the end of the season for a change. Since going to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season, the Raiders had an NFL-worst seven straight seasons with at least 11 losses. Oakland ended that run by going 8-8 last season, but the Raiders were eliminated in the first quarter of their 15th game when Kansas City clinched the AFC West.
In past years, elimination came far earlier in the season as the Raiders were never really even in contention.
"This time of year you're usually shipping your car home, making travel plans," linebacker Quentin Groves said. "But now it's all about getting that W."
And getting help.
Oakland needs a win and a Denver loss at home to Kansas City to win the division. The Raiders can get a wild-card spot by winning, having Cincinnati lose at home to Baltimore and either the New York Jets winning at Miami or Tennessee losing at Houston.
The Jets and Titans play early Sunday, but the Broncos' and Bengals' games will be simultaneous to Oakland's, making for a complicated day. While some players said they don't want to know what happens in the other games, receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said it will be impossible for him not to get updates throughout the day.
"I'm not going to be one of those guys that says, 'I won't be paying attention.' I will," he said. "But all of that doesn't matter if we don't win. So the bottom line is, if we win, and we don't get in, it hurts, but, at least you handled your part of the deal."
Houshmandzadeh has been to the playoffs twice, with Cincinnati in 2005 and Baltimore last season. Many of the other Raiders are still looking for their first postseason trip.
Only punter Shane Lechler and kicker Sebastian Janikowski have been to the playoffs as Raiders, making this a new situation for most in the locker room.
"It feels good to be this close," said safety Michael Huff, who is in his sixth season. "It's been a while since it's been like this around here. It's a good feeling. We know we have to go out there and handle our business this week and everything will take care of itself."