The Oakland Raiders are preparing to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday for their Week 15 matchup, but you can be certain that the team is very aware they are involved in a heated battle for a postseason berth.
You can see the full playoff picture over at ESPN, but the surest route to the playoffs for Oakland remains the same: overtake the surging Denver Broncos in order to capture the AFC West and the automatic berth that comes with division title. The first half of the season made it seem as though the AFC West would be Oakland's for the taking, but the reality of the 2011 NFL season has been much starker.
Should the Raiders be unable to gain ground on the Broncos, however, they would be trying to finish the season with a better record than the New york Jets (currently 8-5), the Tennessee Titans and the Cincinnati Bengals. The latter two teams have the same 7-6 record as the Raiders, but hold tiebreaker advantages over Oakland due to win percentage in conference games.
The Raiders will of course help their own cause immensely by winning the final three games of their season. They face tough competition in the Lions this week and the Chargers in Week 17, but defeating those two teams and the Kansas City Chiefs next week is well within the capability of the Raiders. In the meantime they -- and Raider Nation -- will be hoping for losses from the Broncos, Jets, Bengals and Titans. The playoff picture is far from hopeless at the moment, but the Raiders will need to keep winning in order to keep all hope from slipping away.
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