It's amazing what a blowout win over your arch-rival can do for your morale and outlook on the season. On Sunday, the Raiders marched into Denver and absolutely crushed the division-leading Broncos, in what was perhaps their most complete game of the year. The win improved the Raiders to 3-8 on the season, three games behind Denver in the AFC West.
With five games remaining on the schedule, the Raiders are, technically, still mathematically alive, and that's leading to some surprising optimism around the club.
From David White of the San Francisco Chronicle:
"Things are wide open," Raiders nose tackle Gerard Warren said. "We're not looking ahead, but if we were able to run the table, we might be able to squeak into the playoffs." Don't laugh. Lots of things became fathomable when the Raiders straight-up thumped the Broncos 31-10 Sunday.
Hurray for optimism! Normally, a three game deficit with five games remaining would be almost insurmountable, but in the AFC West this season? Maybe not.
The Broncos currently have the top spot, almost by default, and haven't been able to stop anybody (including the Raiders) from scoring on their woeful defense. The Chargers, meanwhile, have perhaps the biggest handicap of any team in the division, and that would be the wonderful leadership of Norv Turner.
Oakland has two divisional games remaining with one-win Kansas City and a road tilt with San Diego, before ending the season with games against New England, Houston and Tampa Bay. So, yeah, there's definitely some challenges remaining.
Of course, right about now is where, if you're a Raiders fan, you look back to those blown fourth quarter leads against Buffalo and San Diego, not to mention the frustrating losses to Miami and Carolina, and say "what if ..."