Rejoice, men and women of Oakland (and Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, and maybe San Antonio), the Raiders are 5-2. It’s been 15 years since they cruised this high after seven weeks. They are tied for first in the AFC West with the defending Super Bowl champions, and have become a compelling TV product because they score points in bunches.
And I’m here to pee in your silver-and-black Kool-Aid.
The Raiders just aren’t as good as they have led us to believe. Let’s look at the teams they have beaten in 2016: New Orleans, Tennessee, Baltimore, San Diego and Jacksonville. And let’s look at the teams they have lost to: Atlanta and Kansas City.
Can you spot the pattern? (Feel free to consult the NFL standings before stating your answer.)
The teams in the Raiders’ W column all have losing records right now. The teams in the Raiders’ L column have winning records. Pretty simple. Yes, the winning percentages were different when those teams played the Raiders. And yes, the Raiders have contributed to those winning percentages, and perhaps warped them. Still, it’s hard to deny that Jack Del Rio’s team has beaten inferior competition while losing to superior competition this year.
So let’s keep those standings handy and examine the rest of the Oakland schedule.
The next game is at Tampa Bay and already we run into trouble because the Buccaneers are 3-3. I guess we’ll call that one a tie. And if you think ties don’t happen in the NFL, please check with the survivors of that recent Seattle-Arizona disaster.
Moving ahead, let’s assign a win when the Raiders play a sub-.500 team and a loss when they play a super-.500 team:
Houston in Mexico City (loss)
at Kansas City (loss)
at San Diego (win)
at Denver (loss)
And there you have it. The Raiders will finish 8-7-1 this year. Or we can strike that tie in Tampa from the record and say the outcome of that nailbiter will put the Raiders at either 9-7 or 8-8. Either will be a mild improvement over last year. Del Rio can come to the microphone after the last game and pronounce, “We’re not losers anymore!” and the ghost of Al Davis will let out an angry moan.
But it’s highly unlikely that even 9-7 will get the Raiders into the postseason this year. And that would be a major disappointment.
Will the rest of the schedule play out exactly as the Week 7 standings dictate? Almost certainly not. The power rankings will remain fluid. But one thing is irrefutable: If the Raiders don’t play better over the final nine games than they have in the first seven, they will watch the playoffs from the comfort of home, as they did in 2015, and 2014, and 2013 (and wake us when you get to Jon Gruden).
Sorry about the Kool-Aid.