Raiders end playoff drought, 'but that's just the first step'

Raiders end playoff drought, 'but that's just the first step'

SAN DIEGO – Sebastian Janikowski was part of the last Raiders team to make the playoffs. That was 13 years ago, well past the NFL’s life expectancy.

Play as long as Janikowski and good times are bound to come. They flooded early, as he was part of three straight playoff teams to start his career. That was prelude to a long, hard winter.

The Raiders didn’t have a winning season from 2003-15, and Janikowski survived all that losing with professional outlook and a brave face.

Those days are done. The ice has finally broken, and Janikowski can revel in a triumphant return to the playoffs. A postseason spot was secured after a 19-16 victory on Sunday where Janikowski’s contributions were vital.

He hit four field goals in as many attempts, including the game-winner from 44 yards out with less than three minutes remaining.

Not one for words, to the media at least, Janikowski conceded that going back to the postseason really means something.

“I can’t even describe it," Janikowski said. "It feels so special. I’ve waited a long time for that.”

Raiders fans have, too. Players were as excited for them as anyone after the franchise had suffered for so long.

“It means a lot for the city. It means a lot for the team and the organization,” receiver Michael Crabtree said. “But that’s just the first step. Getting to the playoffs is cool. Winning in the playoffs is the best of the best. That’s our goal, to get to the championship.”

The Raiders want the smoothest possible road for a championship run. That would come from winning out. After Kansas City lost to Tennessee earlier Sunday, that would come with an AFC West title, home playoff games and possibly a first-round bye.

The Raiders knew the final Chiefs score before kickoff, but it didn’t add any juice to this game. Win and you’re in. That’s all the motivation required at this time of year.

The offense struggled in the red zone but scored just enough to make a solid defensive effort stand. Having a chance to win the division made this moment doubly special.

“It’s exciting. We control our own destiny,” free safety Reggie Nelson said. “We’re still driving the bus. We have to continue to play solid football and win games.”

Kansas City remains hot on their trail, so the Raiders must continue pressing for wins to stay ahead and avoid falling back into the wild card pool.

“We got some help today, but we have two games left,” running back Latavius Murray said. “We need to finish strong and let the chips fall where they may.”

Watch Antonio Brown's hype video that will get Raiders fans fired up

Watch Antonio Brown's hype video that will get Raiders fans fired up

Antonio Brown has heard all of the criticism, and he's ready to silence his doubters.

The star wide receiver had a turbulent offseason filled with cryptic social media messages and a demand to be traded away from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown's offseason odyssey finally came to a conclusion March 9, when the Steelers traded him to the Raiders.

The 30-year old's offseason antics caused many to label him as a "me-first guy" who isn't all about the team. Critics called him a diva wide receiver who would rather be on "Dancing With the Stars" than win a Super Bowl title.

But after being introduced as a Raider on March 13, Brown quickly has gone to work. He showed up at quarterback Derek Carr's house and then went to the field to build some chemistry with his new teammate. 

Brown captured his whirlwind week on video and cut them up to create a hype video that is sure to get Raiders fans fired up for the 2019 season. 

The four-time All-Pro selection put together another impressive season in 2018, tallying 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns with the Steelers. The addition of Brown, as well as wide receiver Tyrell Williams, should help boost a Raiders' aerial attack that ranked 18th in passing yards per game in 2018. 

[RELATED: Antonio Brown "excited" for a new challenge with Raiders]

After forcing his way out of Pittsburgh and landing a new three-year, $50.125 million contract with the Raiders, Brown wants to prove he's worth every penny.  

NFL rumors: Raiders hosting former Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict

NFL rumors: Raiders hosting former Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict

The Raiders are continuing to cast a wide net in hopes of adding a veteran linebacker to what is a thing group right now. 

On Tuesday, the Raiders are hosting Vontaze Burfict, NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported. The veteran linebacker was cut by the Bengals on Monday, and has a long relationship with Oakland's defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. 

Guenther served as Burfict's defensive coordinator in Cincinnati for four seasons from 2014-2017. 

The 28-year-old Burfict has been in the spotlight for his multiple suspensions and acts of dirty play.. He's been suspended three times in his seven-year career, and missed the first four games last season due to violating the league's PED policy.

In 2018, Burfict played in seven games and finished with 33 tackles. 

[RELATED: Raiders have to help Paul Guenther after spending heavily on offense]

The news comes one day after the Raiders reportedly hosted linebackers Manti Te'o and Aaron Lynch. The Raiders currently have a trio of Marquel Lee, Jason Cabinda and Tahir Whitehead to trot out as their linebackers.