The Oakland Raiders chances to win the AFC West lay in their hands. Like all playoff races, the ability to win as many divisional games as possible is paramount. Sometimes, however, it comes down to just one.
There’s a scenario, that if played out, could lead to a potential week 17 title game of sorts in the AFC West. When the Raiders play the Los Angeles Chargers on December 31st, the right to the throne may be on the line.
The Oakland Raiders Path To The Playoffs May Go Through Los Angeles
The Oakland Raiders
The Raiders sit at 5-6 (2-2) and third in the AFC West, one game back of the Kansas City Chiefs. Their remaining schedule offers an opportunity to advance in the division but they have to take advantage of each matchup.
As it sits right now, they will play two division games (Chiefs, Chargers) and three against the NFC East. Going 2-1 against the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles are critical if the Raiders hope to play for the division title in week 17.
The Giants and Cowboys are a mess and offer an opportunity to keep pace in the division. Given the current state of both teams these games are winnable, but in the NFL nothing is a sure thing.
The Raiders will also need to win against the first place Chiefs one more time. A difficult task at Arrowhead, even against a team that has lost a lot of steam since starting 5-0.
If the Raiders can go 3-1 over their next four, they will be sitting at 8-7 going into their game against the red-hot Chargers.
The Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers also sit at 5-6 (2-2) but are resting in the second place seat due to a win against Oakland in week six. They too will have to go 3-1 over their next four to stay in the hunt and force Oakland to play them for the right to the playoffs.
L.A.’s remaining schedule, like Oakland’s, is set up for success. With games against the Browns, Redskins, Chiefs, and Jets, L.A. could see themselves sitting at 8-7 ahead of week 17.
The Chargers have already beaten Oakland once this season, and have the advantage of finishing the year at home. Though they may find that Los Angeles is still a Raider city and their home field advantage may swing in Oakland’s favor.
The Kansas City Chiefs
At 6-5 (2-2) the Chiefs are in a downward spiral. The team has taken losses to teams they should have beat without issue and now find themselves struggling to stay on top.
They will play Oakland and L.A. over the next few weeks in games that they could easily lose.
They will also play the Jets, Dolphins, and Browns down the stretch; all three of which are winnable. If they lose to the Raiders and L.A., however, these three games become must win’s.
There is a strong possibility that the Chiefs end the regular season at 9-7. And with another loss to the Raiders, K.C. could be sitting at 0-2 against the Oakland by week 17.
This is where the AFC West title can switch hands. If everything falls into place, the outcome of the week 17 matchup in L.A. may decide the winner of the division.
The Raiders could end the season as AFC West champions if all goes well. Yet the possibility of missing the playoffs is real and will come down to execution on the part of Oakland.
No matter what the outcome, the remaining five weeks of the NFL season will be exciting to watch. Especially for the Raider Nation, who could see their team fighting it out for a chance to represent the AFC West in the 2017 Playoffs.