Road to the Playoffs Clear But Precarious For Las Vegas Raiders

November 20, 2020

When the Las Vegas Raiders coaxed Jon Gruden into returning to the sideline, optimism was through the roof for the beleaguered franchise. Things had not gone well for the Raiders since they last won the division and made it to the Super Bowl in 2002.

Since then, they had made the playoffs once (2016). But they lost Derek Carr late in the regular season, so the game was pretty much lost before it started.

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However, with Gruden coming back, fans saw an end to the playoff drought coming soon. They were confident that he could lead the franchise back to its former glory. Some of his early personnel moves made fans nervous. But in Year Three, things appear to be coming together.  

But because of an unforeseen circumstance, the bar may have to be set a little lower than fans or Gruden would want. Yes, winning the division is the regular-season goal. But with the ascension of Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, that will be easier said than done.

So, while it may seem odd, a more reasonable and obtainable goal would be to make the playoffs. With each conference having three wildcards this year, accomplishing that task may not be too challenging.

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How The Las Vegas Raiders Can Make the Playoffs

Outside of the division leaders, the AFC has five teams with 6-3 records, including the Las Vegas Raiders. Due to tiebreakers, they would be the No. 5 seed if the playoffs were to start this week. While that means they would be in, it also means that it would not take much to fall out of the running.

But if they were to slip from the 5-seed, that would be fine. The question is how the Raiders will get into the playoffs; not what seed they will be.

With the competition in the AFC this year, a 10-6 record will probably be necessary to make it in. That means winning four of their last seven games. Fans can probably count on them to beat the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets. The Denver Broncos should not be too hard to beat, either.

As long as they can lock down those three wins, that means they need one more between the Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, and Miami Dolphins.

They did beat the Chiefs and Chargers once already, so we know they can win both games. But the Colts and their defense will be tough to beat. Miami is a winnable game, but they will be tough to beat with how the Dolphins are playing lately.

Finishing with ten wins should not be a problem unless someone goes dreadfully wrong in the final seven games. But what about winning the division?

If they can beat the Chiefs this week, they will have the upper hand in the AFC West. But that would just be loss No. 2 for the Chiefs. Assuming the Raiders can run the table, they will need the Chiefs to lose at least one other game.

Kansas City does have a few challenging games left on their schedule. Along with Week 11’s game against the Raiders, they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following week. They will also travel to Miami and New Orleans before the season ends.

All three are certainly winnable games for the Chiefs. But the Las Vegas Raiders just need them to slip up in one.

So – How Should You Bet?

Betting Play:  Las Vegas Raiders to make playoffs (-200).

Of course, winning the division would be great, but it does not look like a likely outcome. The odds would make for a nice payout (+700; odds via PointsBet), but they would need a lot of things to work in their favor.

Kansas City is a heavy favorite for a reason (-1316). Counting on the Chiefs to slip up and lose a game they should not lose would be a mistake.

However, it does look like a wildcard berth is a definite possibility. But that is assuming the Raiders win every game they should win. While their offense is decent (No. 8 in scoring), their defense has struggled at times (21st in total yards allowed/game; 19th in points/game allowed).

So, while they need the Chiefs to slip up if they are going to have a shot at the division, the Raiders could just as easily be the team slipping up. Fans can probably count on wins over the Falcons, Jets, and Broncos. But all it will take to lose to the Chiefs, Colts, Chargers, and Dolphins is one mistake.

Without at least one win in those four games, the Las Vegas Raiders can say goodbye to the postseason.

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