2011 NFL Playoffs: How the Oakland Raiders Can Win the AFC West Title or Earn a Wild Card Spot
John Doublin – Dec 13, 2011To say the Oakland Raiders have had an up-and-down season would be an understatement. Inspiring wins over the New York Jets, Houston Texans and Chicago Bears coupled with deflating, blowout losses to teams like the Miami Dolphin, Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers have made the 2011 NFL season a tumultuous one for the Raiders.
Oakland came out of the gate strong with an emotional win over the division rival Denver Broncos. This was followed by a debilitating second half collapse in Buffalo to lose to the Bills. These two games would set the stage for the Raiders' seasonâ€”moments of greatness punctuated with moments of ineptitude.
A sign of things to come.
When starting quarterback Jason Campbell was lost to a broken collarbone, the Raiders mortgaged their future to acquire the previously retired Carson Palmer. Palmer has a history with head coach Hue Jackson that goes back to his junior year in high school. Sitting at 4-2, the world finally began to to take notice and started talking about the Raiders' chances in the playoffs.
So, where does all of this leave the Raiders and their playoff hopes? That is an interesting question and what follows is my best attempt to answer it.
If the playoffs started today, the seeding in the AFC would look like this:
- Houston Texans (10-3)
- Baltimore Ravens (10-3)
- New England Patriots (10-3)
- Denver Broncos (8-5)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3)
- New York Jets (8-5)
Teams still aliveâ€”Titans (7-6), Bengals (7-6), Raiders (7-6), Chargers (6-7).
To win the AFC West:
The Raiders are still alive in the race for the AFC West title, but they will need some help.
First, Oakland must win their three remaining games against the Detroit Lions, the Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers. Without going 3-0 over that stretch, all hope is lost unless the Broncos suddenly collapse.
Denver has the Patriots, Bills and Chiefs left to play. It is feasible they could lose all three. The Patriots are, well...the Patriots, the Bills have the potential to beat almost any team and the Chiefs will be motivated to face a divisional opponent and to finish the season well for interim head coach Romeo Crennel.
Is it likely for all of this to happen at the same time? No. Is it possible? Yes. Ultimately, the Raiders have to either win two more games than the Broncos, or finish with the same record, but win their two remaining divisional games.
Oakland can get the tie-break back from Denver by beating the Chargers and Chiefs, and hope the Chiefs can beat the Broncos in week-17. This would give the Raiders a 4-2 divisional record, while the Broncos would finish at 3-3 in division. If both teams finish with the same record, the division would go to Oakland by virtue of divisional records.
To earn a wild-card:
This is where things get a bit confusing. At the moment, the Steelers and Jets hold the wild-card spots. Should the Steelers win just one of their last three games, they would clinch that spot. If the Jets win out, they would clinch the other spot.
Should the Raiders finish with the same record as the Jets, Oakland would get the tie-break because they won the head-to-head match-up.
Assuming the Raiders and Bengals finish with identical records, the tie-break would come down to conference record. Both teams have five AFC wins, but the Bengals only have one AFC game remaining against the Ravens. This would suggest that if Oakland can finish with wins over both the Chiefs and Chargers, the Bengals would finish with one fewer conference win, thereby surrendering the tie-break and wild-card spot to the Raiders.
If Oakland and Tennessee finish with equal records, the Titans would hold the tie-break on the strength of their record against AFC conference opponents. This means, that of all the teams still in the wild-card hunt, the Titans would be the only wild-card contending team that would hold the tie-break over the Raiders. Basically, the Titans are the one team that can finish equal to the Raiders, but beat them on the tie-break.
In short; if the Raiders, Titans, Jets and Bengals all finish equal to one another, the Titans would get the nod. Is this likely? No, but that's how it would play outâ€”I think!
The NFL playoff picture is a convoluted mess this time of year; it's extremely difficult to get it perfectly correct. Therefore, I apologize for for any discrepancies or for missing something important.
One thing is certain: The best thing Raider Nation can hope for is for the the Raiders to win their remaining games and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe Denver will collapse, maybe the Jets will struggle, maybe the Titans and Bengals will fold. Who knowsâ€”things could fall in place for the Raiders.
Then again, maybe not.
Regardless of what other teams do, Oakland has to play better, more inspired and more consistent football if they want to have any hope of delivering what they've promised their fansâ€”a playoff team!
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