Oakland Raiders Must Finish Strong Despite Playoff Elimination


The Oakland Raiders were officially eliminated from playoff contention but still have plenty to play for in their final-two games of season.

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The Oakland Raiders walked off the field Sunday facing the harsh reality that their season will be coming to an end once again, without being able to taste playoff football. Some might not see this as a big deal considering the Silver and Black haven’t made the postseason since 2002 and weren’t expected to be a participant in 99 percent of the polls taken in advance of the regular season.

The overwhelming feeling around NFL circles was that little had changed inside the walls of Raider Nation. Pundits spoke of five or six wins being a great accomplishment. Most NFL insiders will likely say, Jack Del Rio and his staff got the most out of this seemingly overmatched but young and talented core as well as some middle-of-the-road-veterans.

They will likely say that having six wins with two more games on schedule is a more than reasonable accomplishment.

Those things may be spoken about outside the Raiders facility, but within the confines of 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway in Alameda, California they know better.

When Del Rio is standing in the middle of the locker room addressing his team after the week 17 game in Kansas City, he must be able to congratulate them on fighting to the end and continuing the process of building this franchise back up to prominence.

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He must be able to look each individual in the eyes and proclaim they fought until the final 60 minutes ticked off their season. But in order to accomplish this, the Raiders must view these final two regular season games as must wins.

These final two games of the season must be approached with intensity and urgency — as if a trip to the playoffs were still at stake. The Raiders’ finish their home schedule  against the San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve, in front of a national audience, and no one wants to be upstaged or embarrassed in front of the whole country — ask Steve Harvey how that feels — so expect the Raiders to come out full of emotion and ready to battle.

San Diego will be looking for revenge. The Raiders unleashed Amari Cooper on the Chargers secondary in their last match-up. And the young speedster ran through, past and around defenders at will. Derek Carr and Cooper seem to have recaptured some of that early season chemistry that got temporarily interrupted mid-season, and should continually attack a Charger defense vulnerable to the big play.

The timing between a young quarterback and even younger receiver is developed over thousands of repetitions, and every second on the field together is an opportunity to grow. Carr and Cooper need to take advantage of the time they have left in this season, as they head into the offseason.

Playing their final home game of the year on national television should be enough to inspire a good showing by the Raiders on Thursday Night. But the real test will come the following week in Arrowhead Stadium. The Kansas City Chiefs could still be playing for a divisional title and a place in the playoffs, so the normal crazy crowd for “Raiders Week” in Kansas City, will be replaced by an even more fanatical bunch that Sunday.

Next: Khalil Mack Will Make Raiders Great Again

This final road game for the Raiders will be a great indication of how far Del Rio has brought along his troops from the start of training camp. At the beginning of camp it was apparent that defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr was convinced that Khalil Mack had the tools and will to become a “dominating force” up front. Mack has turned up the heat on opposing quarterbacks with six sacks in the last two weeks.

Mack’s five sacks against the Denver Broncos last week tied Hall of Famer Howie Long’s single game franchise record, and his 15 total sacks is the most by a Raider since Derrick Burgess tallied 16 to lead the NFL in 2005. So the incentives are there for the Raiders to finish strong and continue this upward climb towards the top of the standings. It’s their will and pride which will determine how fast they can rise.