In Middle of Sloppy Season, Raiders Still in Playoff Hunt

ALAMEDA – Jalen Richard fumbled three times Sunday and quarterback Derek Carr threw two passes right to New York Giants. The Raiders never lost possession.

Johnny Holton coughed it up and didn't recover, and Marquette King had to eat a punt attempt inside his own 10. Defense bailed the Raiders out both times, and the Silver and Black beat the NFC's worst by one score.

This ugly game produced a positive result. For a Raiders team in full-on survival mode, that's all that matters.

"Trust me, I don't care how we win. I just want to win," quarterback Derek Carr said. "I've said that since my rookie year when we were 0-10, when I was begging for wins. Obviously, you want to go out and throw for 400 every game and win by 40, rush for 200 yards and all those things. At the end of the day, this game is so hard. It's not easy.

"We have good players and all those things, but you see just how hard it is to win these games. It takes almost every NFL game, within one score if not two. It's always going to be close. It's going to come down to the wire. So anytime you can win, doesn't matter how you do it, you just want to win."

If the Raiders do enough of that, they'll win the shockingly competitive AFC West. The Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers are tied atop the division at 6-6, with games against each other left on the schedule.

The Silver and Black play Kansas City Sunday morning at Arrowhead Stadium and the Chargers in the regular season finale. If the Raiders beat both of their rivals, they'll win the division even if they drop a game to Dallas or Philadelphia.

"We're in a situation that all of our goals are still right in front of us," Carr said. "It's just right in front of us, it's there. Everything we want to do is right there. We realize that. We have a good group of guys that's growing."

Imagine that. A team that lost four straight and were 4-6 after getting worked by New England is right in the thick of things. They control their own destiny, and have done so by winning ugly.

Let's be frank. A Raiders game hasn't gone according to plan since Week 2.

The New York Jets got thoroughly stomped 45-20 at Oakland Coliseum and Marshawn got hyphy on the sideline. Those were simpler times, with the 2-0 Raiders playing to lofty expectations.

The Raiders have been wading through the swamp ever since. They haven't won game by two scores after that. They've lost six games by an average of 13.6 points

They weren't dominant last year, but most every game was tight. Why? The Raiders found a formula that worked. The Raiders were efficient offensively, generated turnovers by the ton, controlled the kicking game and most always came through in the clutch.

These aren't the 2016 Raiders, as much as fans wish they were. They have to win games a new, slightly messier way.

"It's different than last year. Every year is a new year," Carr said. "We're learning now, how to prepare, how to recover, how to compete. We're learning how to win games. As long as we can get hot, right around now, this is the time to do it."

The Raiders are 6-5 in December or after in the Jack Del Rio era, but simply must get hot to save the season.

"We're feeling good," middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. "We want to continue stacking these wins. I understand that we have a shot. …Playing good football in December is really what you need."

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