The Raiders almost had an awesome Sunday. They were on the verge of improving their AFC West standing without lifting a finger, with Kansas City and Denver nearly flatlined in Sunday morning’s NFL action.
Both teams did what the 2016 Raiders have done so many times, and used one last breath to mount an epic comeback. The Chiefs erased a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit and beat Carolina on a field goal as time expired. The Broncos blocked New Orleans’ go-ahead extra point with 88 seconds left and returned it for a defensive two-point conversion to beat the Saints.
Dramatic moments kept the AFC West tightly packed heading down the home stretch.
The Chiefs and Raiders sit atop the division at 7-2 – Kansas City technically has priority with a tiebreaker – with the Broncos (7-3) in hot pursuit. San Diego lost a heartbreaker and dropped to 4-6, though the top three should compete for the catbird’s seat throughout the year.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was at home during the Raiders bye, undoubtedly watching the action unfold. Several players and coaches kept an eye on Sunday’s games, hoping rival losses provided breathing room atop the division.
Nope. This division’s going to stay close.
While scoreboard watching is easier during the bye week, focus remains internal.
“We’re worried about what we can control and … that’s why our team doesn’t get all caught up into that,” Carr said last week. “We have the same process that we go about and we’re seeing that it works. We’re seeing that it results in wins and so, if we start thinking about other things, we’re going to start going down the wrong path and we don’t want to do that.”
The AFC West is the most competitive division in the NFL – even the Chargers are tough to put down – and the Raiders have a hard road to win their first division title since 2002. They came close in 2011, but lost four of the last five to finish 8-8 to Denver in a down year for the division.
There’s an upswing in process, though the Raiders’ wild card standing remains strong. They have a two game lead on the last wild card spot with seven games left, which could help end a long playoff drought.
The Raiders want to win the division and keep stacking wins down the stretch, which features three divisional road games in the last four weeks. That should keep feet firmly on the gas.
“That’s what we do anyway,” head coach Jack Del Rio said last week. “We’re going to do what we do. We’re going to prepare hard. … The process is in place and there’s a good, healthy process here. … We’re going to continue that process and then go compete and give it everything we have.”