Six straight victories and a 10-2 record by the Raiders had started to spark hopes of a return to the playoffs and – could it be dared? – a return to the Super Bowl after so many horrible seasons.
Those hopes weren’t dashed Thursday night by a 21-13 loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Raiders are 10-3 and still are tied for the second-best record in the AFC. But the loss does mean Oakland will need some help or have to take a tougher road through the playoffs.
The Raiders and Chiefs both are 10-3 in the AFC West, but Kansas City is 2-0 over its old AFL rival, which puts it on top and in the driver’s seat. With three games left, even if Oakland wins out to finish 13-3, the Raiders will need the Chiefs to stumble in order to gain the division title and a possible first-round bye.
The Chiefs have their next two games at home against the 6-6 Titans and 8-4 Broncos, then finish in San Diego against the 5-7 Chargers. The Raiders are at the Chargers in their next game, Dec. 18, host the 6-6 Colts and finish at Denver.
If the Raiders had beaten the Chiefs Thursday night, they would have had the inside track to a division title and a possible No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Now it’s more likely they will be a wild-card team that might have to play on the road.
The loss Thursday night was a blow to a team that had enjoyed an exciting run for a month and a half. Quarterback Derek Carr, who wasn’t as sharp as usual, admitted after the game that he and his team had been “punched in the mouth.”
Added Carr: “Now we’ve got to respond.”
Head coach Jack Del Rio will try to get his team back on track against the Chargers. If the Raiders can regain their momentum, they’ll head into the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season with at least a chance to avenge their 0-2 mark against Kansas City and win their way to the NFL’s championship game.
Said Del Rio: “Perhaps we see this team again.”