The fans will find out a lot about this Raiders team in the next six weeks, but the fans will know if the Raiders are contenders over the next three weeks.
At this point, the Raiders haven’t beaten an opponent with a record better than .500 outside the division. The Raiders are also woefully bad on the road, with just one giant victory in Denver.
If the Raiders are to go from pretenders to contenders things must change.
The game against Miami this Sunday at home might be the easiest non-division game remaining on the schedule, but Miami is far from a Powder Puff team. Miami is starting a familiar foe at quarterback, ex-Chief Tyler Thigpen.
Four of Miami’s five wins have come on the road. Miami defeated Buffalo, Minnesota, Green Bay, and Cincinnati. The Dolphins also defeated the Titans at home and it took a questionable call for the Steelers to defeat the Dolphins.
The Raiders travel to San Diego in week 13. A huge game with division implications. San Diego is going on their typical late season surge. Philip Rivers is marching towards history and Vincent Jackson is coming back.
Beating San Diego again would make the Raiders 4-0 in the division. This is important if the Raiders are to make the playoffs in a tight AFC West race.
In week 14 the Raiders take the long plane ride to Jacksonville. The Jaguars are 6-4 and playing good football lately. A road game against a team above .500. Two obstacles the Raiders must overcome to prove their status as a contender, instead of pretender.
If the Raiders are .500 heading to Jacksonville, this game has major playoff implications, maybe for both teams.
A record of 1-2 or worse over the next three games could put the Raiders season to bed. They would have to run the table to have a real shot at the playoffs. That means the Raiders must win two of the next three games. The Raiders know it. Win a couple more quick and there is a real shot at the postseason. Lose a couple more and the season starts to slip away.
The Raiders head home to face Denver in week 15. A division opponent they should beat. It doesn’t mean they will as division games can be wacky. If the Raiders successful win two of the next three a win against Denver at home would guarantee a .500 season with two games to go.
Indianapolis may struggle containing Darren McFadden in week 16, but you know Peyton Manning will find a way to make it close. The Colts are actually a favorable matchup for the Raiders, but with a month to go plenty can change. Manning and the Colts find themselves in a fight for the AFC South and that means no rest for the Indianapolis starters this season.
Arrowhead week 17, one of the toughest road venues in the NFL. The Chiefs, who still lead the division, could be trying to hold off the Chargers and Raiders. It could be a win and in game.
The Raiders have a lot to take care of before they can think about this showdown. Even if the Raiders prove it, this could still be a game that makes or breaks the season. I recall the Raiders sealing the AFC West during a monsoon in Oakland in 2002. The Chiefs will want to return the favor and January in Kansas City could mean crazy weather, but at very least frigid cold.