After six weeks of NFL action, there’s been plenty of surprises scattered across the league. One of the biggest surprises, though, may come in the form of the Oakland Raiders. The team who many projected as a possible sleeper is not only in the playoff mix currently, but they are actually sitting at the top of the AFC West at this point. The Raiders look like the real deal, and at 4-2, will look to hold off the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and possibly even the unlucky San Diego Chargers for the division crown.
With the Raiders playing three more games before their bye week when they’ll get to rest and recuperate, there are plenty of games ahead on the schedule that look like they could wind up being make-or-break spots for the team’s 2016 season. Let’s check out the three biggest games that could wind up deciding whether or not the Raiders break their 13-year playoff drought this season.
Week 17 at Denver Broncos
If the Raiders find themselves in a “win and get in” situation against the Broncos in Week 17 on the road, it’s going to be a brutally tough spot. The Broncos are a great team to start, but let’s not forget that one of their final losses on 2016 came against this Raiders team at home. Don’t expect the Broncos to let Oakland get another road victory against them this year.
Week 14 at Kansas City Chiefs
Noticing a trend here? It’s the home stretch of the 2016 season that could wind up being what decides Oakland’s playoff fate. While the Chiefs are a good team, it’s the situation here that makes this one even tougher for the Raiders. Assuming that Kansas City is right there in the playoff mix themselves in Week 14, they’ll then draw their division rival on their home field, in a prime-time matchup on Thursday night, Dec. 8.
The Chiefs have had a few up-and-down results to this point, losing to the Houston Texans and getting blown out by the Pittsburgh Steelers. With that said, it’s hard to ignore the fact that they also just beat the Raiders on the road 26-10 in Week 6.
Week 12 vs. Carolina Panthers
Everyone is out on the Panthers currently, for good reason. While they’re 1-5 on the year, their last two losses have come by a combined six points. If the Panthers can right the ship over the next few weeks after their bye, then they’ll not only have momentum coming into the Week 12 matchup, but they’ll have the always-scary quarterback Cam Newton. Right now, the Panthers don’t look like all that daunting of a task, but in a few weeks, assuming they’re able to pick up a few wins, it’s going to look like an entirely different situation.
Also, as painful as it is to hear for Raiders fans, they’ve given up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Quarterbacks have thrown 12 touchdowns against five interceptions. While the Raiders haven’t allowed much on the ground to quarterbacks (nine rushes for 27 yards and a touchdown), it’s a safe bet that Newton will run quite a bit when these two teams square off.