Perhaps it just isn’t meant to be.
Perhaps the Raiders – who looked so explosive and physical early in the season -- simply aren’t good enough to be a playoff team.
After three straight losses, including Sunday’s crushing come-from-ahead fourth-quarter failure against the Lions, the 7-7 Raiders may have just fumbled away one too many opportunities.
This team, after all, isn’t the same one that led the AFC West earlier this season. Without Darren McFadden, the team’s running game has turned from great to good. Without the speed of Jacoby Ford, Taiwan Jones and Denarius Moore for much of the second half of this season, the offense lacks the punch it packed earlier. And with Carson Palmer the man at QB instead of Jason Campbell, it seems the team’s personality has changed.
Plus, as evidenced once again in the 28-27 loss to Detroit Sunday, the Raiders’ defense has too many times failed to close the door on a win.
It happened in Buffalo. It happened against the Broncos in Oakland. It happened vs. the Lions Sunday.
“We didn’t make crucial plays … especially on defense at the end of the game,” defensive tackle Richard Seymour told columnist Monte Poole of the Bay Area News Group.
As Poole noted, it’s a familiar theme. Wrote Poole: “The three games they’ve given back, with the defense doing the vast majority of the giving, are the difference between 10-4 and 7-7 – which leaves them clinging to slender postseason hopes but fully aware their hopes are disappearing faster than the afternoon sun in winter.”
Their season might not be officially done, but is it realistic to believe a team’s personality will change in their final games Saturday in Kansas City and on Jan. 1 against the Chargers?
The same mistakes keep popping up: too many penalties, letting leads slip away, an inability to stop the run and giving up too many points. As Poole notes, Oakland has been outscored 382-317 through 14 games. Is that a playoff team?
“We understand where we are,” Palmer told Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee. “We desperately needed this win. It’d be easy to go in the tank and just say, ‘Well, we blew our opportunity.’ But we’ve got two games left. Who knows what happens with the other teams?”
What the other teams do, however, is out of the Raiders’ hands. The only thing they can control is their own performance.
Yet too many times this season, the Raiders haven’t been able to do that, either.