The Raiders were a two-point conversion away from ending their 2019 campaign on a high note. Derek Carr and Hunter Renfrow connected in the end zone with 11 seconds left in the regular-season finale at Denver but couldn’t replicate success on the game’s decisive play.
Carr’s pass fell to the turf, essentially securing the Raiders’ 16-15 loss to the Broncos. The result didn’t matter much. The Raiders would’ve finished the season 8-8 with a win. Their NFL draft picks improved with a loss.
If the Raiders would have won that game and NFL operated under a new and expanded playoff format approved Tuesday in a conference call with league owners, the Raiders would’ve made the postseason.
The Silver and Black would have claimed the AFC’s No. 7 seed and the final playoff spot in a format that includes an extra team and an extra game in each conference. A total of 14 teams now make the playoffs, with only the No. 1 seed granted a first-round bye and three games per conference in the wild-card round.
They would’ve advanced on a strength of victory tiebreaker over the Steelers. Creating that alternate reality entailed a lot of woulda, coulda, shoulda, enough to make your head spin.
Plain and simple: The Raiders didn’t deserve to make the playoffs after fading down the stretch, with ample opportunity to right the ship and get in. They ran out of gas due to poor depth and a rash of injuries to vital players, and couldn’t get the job done.
But the Silver and Black should be contenders for a 2020 postseason berth if things go right with their improved defense and an offense that could be dynamic if the Raiders pick the right receiver(s) in next month’s NFL draft.
The extra playoff spot will certainly help the Raiders and similar teams trying to get from the middle of the pack to the AFC’s top tier.
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It’ll be beneficial for the Raiders playing in the AFC West. The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs should be good for a long time, especially with Patrick Mahomes behind center. Adding an extra wild-card spot should help the Raiders make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and just the second time since the 2002 season.
The Raiders were 6-4 and in great standing before falling on hard times and finishing 2019 with a whimper despite receiving tons of help in their playoff quest. They were formally eliminated from playoff contention entering that 2019 finale in Denver but would’ve been alive if there were a seventh spot.
They could be in a similar situation next season and should be better suited to perform well down the stretch while fighting for the playoffs.