Nobody said the journey to the playoffs would be easy. And the Oakland Raiders' sail through the high seas of the NFL is proof of how rocky the waters are to the postseason. Of course, aboard their vessel of tortured pirates, the Raiders have a tendency to embellish those hardships. Last weekend's battle against the Kansas City Chiefs was the latest example.
Either through heavenly divinity or through evil ridiculousness, Oakland found a way to win last Saturday's contest at Arrowhead Stadium, pulling out on top 16-13 in overtime. Despite a boatload of penalties, two turnovers, a substandard performance on offense an another last-minute score drive by the opposition that tied the score, Oakland came out victorious, shattering all mores of what is supposed to be a winning formula in the NFL. That has been the Raiders' credo for countless years. And that is what rang true last weekend.
The Oakland Raiders: always swimming against the grain. Even their wins are abnormal.
The one take-home message the Raiders received from Saturday's game was that there is no recipe to winning an NFL game. Penalties and interceptions cannot prevent a team from triumph. Neither can clock mismanagement nor a lack of red-zone execution. The Raiders did everything a team is not supposed to do—and they still won the game. A W is all that matters in this league—and a W is what the Raiders went home with.
Coupled with the Denver Broncos' loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Raiders' win pushes Oakland one step closer to the AFC West crown. And although there are a myriad of scenarios that can unfold next weekend, the bottom line is that the Raiders need to beat the San Diego Chargers in order to have a chance to being the team atop the standings at season's end.
But how can this downtrodden franchise ensure they're the last team standing? How will they do it?
Nobody knows. Except maybe higher being.
On Saturday, the Raiders sputtered on offense, with neither a dominant running game nor a serviceable passing game. The defense completely permeable, both on the ground and through the air, allowing Kansas City's 26th-ranked offense to gain 435 total yards. And, of course, the Raiders were playing without a full arsenal, as Jacoby Ford, Taiwan Jones and Michael Huff were out of service again.
Yet in spite of all the checks in the cons column, the Raiders are scrambling to find enough pros to get them past division enemy San Diego next weekend. But being the professionals they are, Oakland knows that it all starts with focus, determination and a little bit of faith.
Coach Hue Jackson has stated all season that he believes his team is destined to win the division and make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. He has often referred to a conversation he had with late owner Al Davis prior to his passing. Davis apparently said to Jackson, "Hue, I know we'll win it in the end." And Jackson has lived with that premonition as motivation all year long, knowing that some how, some way, some day, the Raiders will prove Davis right.
Who'd have thunk that a little mystical destiny would be a guide to the Raiders—that Oakland could actually have a higher power on their side, just like the Denver Broncos do? Throughout the season, people have followed the mighty performance of Bronco quarterback, and his famous religious beliefs have come to become a focal point.
What has projected Tebow and his religion to the forefront even more is the fact that earlier this season, through miraculous circumstances, he guided the Broncos to an unbelievable seven-game win streak, six of which were heavenly fourth-quarter comebacks. His remarkable run resurrected Denver's playoff hopes and has them tied atop the AFC West; all the while making him a national subject at the water cooler and even in a Saturday Night Live sketch.
Who will come out on top in the AFC West?
Thus, at the end of this season, next weekend, the fate of the AFC West hangs in the balance of divine intervention: Davis' parting words about his longtime organization and the highly publicized faith of Tebow. Whose team will prevail? It appears that it will come down to the dark side that has been the Silver & Black against the pure and good bright side that guides Tebow. It will be an interesting battle of beliefs this weekend—a battle that will be left to the higher spirits in the sky.
Will Davis, the ambassador of all that is renegade and maverick overcome the arch-rival Broncos, led by the holy Tim Tebow?
If you're a member of Raider nation, nothing would be more exciting to see Davis, the demigod of the rebel Raiders topple the angelic Broncos.
This Sunday, the fortune of the AFC West will be left to the powers that be: Jesus and Al Davis.
Amen to that.
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