In the end, it was over before it began. That is the Raiders playoff hopes ended before this week’s matchup with the Colts kicked off. The Raiders knew that they would know (if they wanted to know) whether the game today would hold playoff implications or not before it began. In this case, they had a good idea well before that.
The Chiefs led the Titans 31-7 by halftime and the Raiders knew they needed to prepare for the next two games knowing the result would not matter in the Raiders playoff hopes. And the Chiefs cruised to a 34-14 victory after that. The Raiders only hope of making the playoffs this season were if they would win the AFC West and they needed the Chiefs to lose today to accomplish that. The AFC West is now a two horse race between the Chiefs and Chargers.
The Raiders have already had their best season since the 2002 Super Bowl year. In the last seven seasons they had at least 11 losses each year. That ended three weeks ago with a season sweeping win over the Chargers. Their consecutive double digit loss seasons ended last week with a win over the Broncos– another season sweep over a division rival.
This week they will look to ensure they end the season at .500 or better as well. These last two games will continue to show the coaches and fans just what kind of talent this team has and what they may be capable of accomplishing in the near future.
The final game, they will play those same Chiefs that ended their playoff hopes this week. Depending on how the Chargers play today, the Raiders will have a chance to exact a little revenge on the Chiefs by ending their playoff hopes as well.
Sure, it sucks after coming this far to once again be playing the role of playoff spoiler instead of playoff contender, but you have to crawl before you can run. These Raiders still controlled their own destiny two weeks ago when they lost to the Jaguars. They lost a hard fought, close game 38-31 to the Jaguars. That was the game on which the Raiders’ season was lost. Because while they have owned their division rivals 5-0 this season, the Chargers and Chiefs have played outside the division much better than the Raiders.
This Raider team will have to find the motivation they need to approach this game exactly the same as they would have if their playoff hopes were still on the line. Because by all indications, playoff hopes are something they will need to get used to from now on.
UPDATE: The Raiders lost their game to the Colts and the Chargers lost to the Bengals, making the Chiefs the AFC West champions regardless of what happens next week between the Chiefs and Raiders.