Derek Carr isn’t quite ready to talk about the playoffs. Mere moments after the Oakland Raiders came back to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers on “Thursday Night Football” in Week 10, the Raiders‘ veteran quarterback was asked by Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews about the playoffs, a place Oakland, who improved to 5-4 through nine games, has visited just once since their last Super Bowl appearance back in 2002.
“We got a lot of young guys, so I tell them to just pump their breaks a little bit,” said Carr, who was an efficient 21-of-31 in Thursday’s 26-24 win over Los Angeles. “It’s my sixth year, and I’ve only been once and I didn’t even get to play; I broke my ankle. So I told them, ‘Let’s just pump our breaks and let’s just do our job. That’s all we need to focus on right now.’
“It does feel good to be in the hunt,” Carr continued. “We’re playing games that matter, just like tonight. And that’s what you want in November, you’re playing games that matter. We can set ourselves up, but we got seven games to go.”
Oakland is certainly in the hunt. Prior to the start of the 2019 season, you would likely find more people betting the Raiders’ under win total than their over and you could get great odds if you believed Oakland would make the playoffs. The Raiders’ have arguably the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL, as their remaining opponents have a combined record of 22-40. Oakland’s next two opponents — the Bengals and Jets — are a combined 1-15 heading into the weekend. They have just one remaining game against a team with a winning record — the Chiefs — who will host the Raiders in Week 13.
As it currently stands, there are 11 AFC teams with a realistic shot at making the playoffs. The Raiders are the AFC’s seventh seed, a half-game ahead of the 4-4 Steelers, who will host the 5-3 Rams on Sunday. The Jaguars and Titans, two teams with 4-5 records, as the eight and nine seeds, respectively, followed by the Chargers, who dropped to 4-6 following Thursday night’s loss. The next team is the Broncos, who are 3-6 and would have to go on a serious tear during the second half of the season to become a serious playoff threat.
Oakland is a half-game behind the Colts, who will host the 1-7 Dolphins on Sunday. However, and this could become very important — the Raiders own the tiebreaker over the Colts after defeating them earlier this season in a head to head matchup. The Raiders aren’t as close to the 6-2 Bills — the current fifth seed in the AFC seed. Buffalo will travel to Cleveland on Sunday to take on the 2-6 Browns in a game they surprisingly enter as underdogs against the spread, per Sportsline.
While a Wild Card spot is certainly up for grabs, the Raiders are also just one game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West division race. The Chiefs, who may wait another week before having Patrick Mahomes back under center, are on the road against the 4-5 Titans this Sunday.
The Colts, Steelers, and Texans are the three main teams Oakland fans should be paying close attention to this weekend and in the following weeks to come. The Colts, who may be without quarterback Jacoby Brissett and T.Y. Hilton for Sunday’s game, have one of the NFL’s easier schedules during the second half of the season. Their remaining opponents have a 46.4 percent winning percentage that includes games against the Dolphins as well as the 2-6 Buccaneers. A Week 12 game in Houston and a Week 15 game in New Orleans are the Colts’ toughest second half matchups.
The Steelers’ remaining schedule includes just three games against teams with a winning record. In all, Pittsburgh’s remaining seven opponents have a combined record of 24-33-1. The Steelers have one game remaining against the winless Bengals, two games against the Browns and a Week 16 game in New York against the 1-7 Jets. Pittsburgh’s toughest games — on paper — are this Sunday’s game against the Rams, a Week 15 home game against the Bills and their season finale in Baltimore against the 6-2 Ravens, who already defeated Pittsburgh at Heinz Field in Week 5.
The Texans have the toughest remaining schedule of the four teams. Houston’s remaining opponents carry a 53.3 winning percentage that includes a Week 11 matchup in Baltimore and a Week 13 home game against the Patriots.
Aside from their favorable remaining schedule, the Raiders appear to have the talent to make a legitimate playoff push. In Carr, the Raiders have a solid, veteran quarterback who is playing some of the best football of his career. In front of Carr is arguably the NFL’s most underrated offensive line, a unit that has also helped pry open holes for rookie Josh Jacobs, who has rushed for 811 yards and seven touchdowns thus far. The trio of Darren Waller, Tyrell Williams, and Hunter Renfrow has turned into a solid receiving corps for Carr.
Oakland’s defense, a unit that has had its ups and downs, had arguably its best performance of the season on Thursday night. After recording just 15 sacks and four interceptions during the season’s first eight games, the Raiders — led by Erik Harris‘ two picks and Clelin Ferrell’s 2.5 sacks — picked off Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers three times while sacking him five times on Thursday night. While still a work in progress, if the Raiders’ defense can continue to put pressure on the quarterback, good things should be in store for the Silver and Black.
The Raiders still have their flaws. Their offense settled for too many field goals on Thursday night, the run defense had no answers for Melvin Gordon, and the Raiders again were near 100 yards in penalties. But despite their flaws, Oakland is doing what the late Al Davis would have wanted. “Just win, baby,” was the Raiders’ philosophy during their championship years. It may help them get back to the postseason now.