The Raiders will get a lift Sunday with the return of wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Ford against the Chargers. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Raiders know they have to beat the Chargers Sunday to have a chance to play in the NFL’s postseason.
That, however, is the only thing they can control.
To win the AFC West title, the Raiders also need the Kansas City Chiefs to beat Tim Tebow and the Broncos in Denver. All the Raiders can do in that game is look to Colorado and cross their fingers that the Chiefs, now out of the playoff picture, put up a fight.
Apparently the Chiefs still have a lot of fight left in them.
Interim head coach Romeo Crennel said this week his Chiefs are going to play to win. Meanwhile, his quarterback – Kyle Orton, released by the Broncos late in the season – has much to prove.
Crennel says he plans to play his veterans and starters and not use the game as a test for young players on the roster. And he’s confident those players will want to beat the Broncos Sunday not so much to play spoiler, but because of pride.
“Every game that you play, the guy has to look in the mirror and know he’s giving his best effort to try to win the game,” Crennel told the Associated Press in Kansas City. “I think that’s the case Sunday with Denver.”
Crennel has some incentive, too. As interim coach, he can make a statement going into the offseason if he can lead his team over the Broncos and finish 2-1, with the other win coming over the previously undefeated Packers.
“I don’t believe what I say, what I think, is going to make any difference,” Crennel said. “It’s what I do, the work that I put out there. That’s the thing that will make the impact.”
Orton, meanwhile, has played well since taking over the starting quarterback job in Kansas City because of injuries to the Chiefs’ Nos. 1 and 2 QBs. After losing his starting job in Denver to Tebow and being released by the Broncos on Nov. 22, Orton gets a rare opportunity to beat his old teammates and eliminate them from the playoff picture.
Broncos’ Vice President John Elway told reporters this week that the Broncos knew they “may have to face him down the line and we took that risk.”
For his part, Orton is saying all the right (and low-key) things. But no doubt revenge would be sweet.
“It’s just another week for me to come out and prove my preparation and play to my teammates,” he told the AP this week.
Both the Chargers-Raiders and Chiefs-Broncos games will be played at the same time Sunday, so there might be some scoreboard watching going on in both stadiums.
Should the Broncos win to clinch the AFC West title, and the Raiders beat the Chargers, Oakland can still qualify as a wild card if Cincinnati loses at home to Baltimore and either the New York Jets win at Miami or Tennessee loses at Houston.
The Raiders apparently will have a couple of key players back for Sunday’s finale. Wide receiver Jacoby Ford, who injured his foot Nov. 10 and has missed six games, returned to practice Wednesday and was running routes and caught some passes, reported the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vittorio Tafur. Safety Michael Huff, who missed the past two games because of a hamstring issue, also was back on the field Wednesday, Tafur reported. Running back Darren McFadden, however, apparently will not be ready to return Sunday.