The Raiders have been inconsistent, disappointing and, at times, hard to watch.
Yet with five games remaining in the regular season, the Raiders also are contenders for the AFC West title.
After beating the Denver Broncos Sunday, 21-14, Oakland is 5-6 and tied for second place in the division with the Chargers behind the 6-5 Kansas City Chiefs.
Just a few weeks ago, the Chiefs looked like Super Bowl contenders. They started off 5-0 but now have lost five of their past six, including Sunday’s 16-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Suddenly the Raiders have plenty of hope because they’re in perhaps the NFL’s worst division this season and still have plenty of playmakers – especially on offense – that could get on a roll.
Wrote longtime Bay Area columnist Ray Ratto: “(The) Raiders still have most of the same issues they’ve had all year. They are only where they are because in the last seven weeks, the division is a hideous 7-16, and when you eliminate the games in which the four teams played a fellow inhabitant, it is a laughable 4-11.”
The Raiders will now face the Giants this Sunday at O.co Coliseum, a team that is just 2-9, and then go to Kansas City. Both appear to be winnable games, though beating the Chiefs at home always is difficult. However, their final three games could be more challenging. The Raiders will host the 5-6 Cowboys, the 10-1 Eagles and the surging 5-6 Chargers in Los Angeles to close the schedule.
Head coach Jack Del Rio said after Sunday’s victory that he still sees a Raiders team that can play the way it did last year in going 12-4.
“Obviously we need to get hot,” he said. “We need to play good football. We showed glimpses of being a good football team tonight in all three areas. Certainly when you add it all up, you look and say, ‘There’s still a lot that needs to be corrected and worked on.’ We’re not going to pretend … take every opportunity to enjoy. You have to. Winning is hard in this league. You need to enjoy the victories. We got No. 5 tonight. We need to get ready to turn our attention to next week to get No. 6.”
Kickoff for Sunday’s game against the visiting Giants is set for 1:25 p.m.