How Will The Raiders Handle Their Biggest Game In Years?
Playing in primetime with everything on the line should be every competitor’s dream.
Not everyone is built for that though. We will find out this Sunday if the Las Vegas Raiders are ready for “their moment.”
The week 18 matchup between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders from sin city has been flexed to Sunday night football and will be the final game of the 2021 NFL regular season.
A win by the Chargers and they are in. A win by the Raiders and they are in.
The Raiders could know before kickoff that they are already in if they get serious help. They would need a loss by Pittsburgh to Baltimore which is possible, but they also need a Jacksonville win over the heavily favored Colts.
With the assumption that the previous scenario will not happen this will all then land directly on the shoulders of the Raiders themselves. They now control their destiny. What a premise, you win a home game against your rivals and you make the playoffs.
This didn’t look possible at all just a few weeks ago.
On December 12th, the Raiders stomped on the Chiefs logo before the game at Arrowhead and that proved to be a very bad idea. Everything after that went against the silver and black. Missed tackles, dropped passes, blown coverages and the Chiefs cruised to a blowout win 48-9.
The Raiders were (6-7) and their playoff hopes were on life support.
From that point on, the Raiders have won three consecutive games. A walk-off win in Cleveland, a tight home win against Denver and then another walk-off at Indianapolis. The three-game win streak has guaranteed a winning season.
This will be just their second winning season in 19 years. The only other winning season came in 2016 when they made the playoffs but lost in the wild card game without Derek Carr.
There are so many reasons that this game feels HUGE. Besides the obvious win and get in scenario it also feels like the organization is at a crossroads. Jon Gruden was going to be the face of this team for a decade and that journey stopped abruptly during this season. Mike Mayock was a Gruden guy and has several questionable draft choices. Rich Basaccia has done an admirable job in a very difficult situation but will he be the one guiding this team next year?
Derek Carr already has the most passing yards he has had ever in a season but has the fewest touchdowns and most interceptions.
It feels like massive decisions are coming on head coach, GM and quarterback. Should one game have all the weight of those kind of decisions? Probably not but it probably will. The Raiders need to take advantage of this opportunity. I wouldn’t expect a long playoff run but a trip to the playoffs would be needed.
Get in the playoffs and you never know what can happen.
If you look at the AFC West, the Raiders are in a tough spot. Kanas City remains the class of the division and will likely stay there. The Chargers and Justin Herbert have a very bright future. If Denver can figure out their quarterback situation, then they could be a problem. Imagine the Broncos adding someone like Rodgers or Wilson and they would be very good.
The Raiders aren’t bad but they aren’t consistently good either. It’s been far too long for this franchise to be relevant. Sunday is a chance to make a statement for now and possibly even their future.