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Things were looking much better for the Las Vegas Raiders and their playoff hopes before Sunday around 1:06 p.m. ET. Then, Josh Jacobs fumbled on the Raiders' first play from scrimmage and the Kansas City Chiefs returned it for six points.

It was the first score of an embarrassing 48-9 blowout that dropped the Raiders to 6-7. The 39-point loss was their second-largest loss in the Super Bowl era in franchise history. Vegas has now lost five out of its last six games, but is not technically out of the postseason race just yet. However, a win this Saturday against the Cleveland Browns is absolutely necessary. 

Let's take a deeper dive into the Raiders' playoff outlook by looking at their current positioning, their remaining games and a few things they will have to improve on in the coming weeks. 

Current playoff position 

The 6-7 Raiders are now last in the AFC West, and currently hold the No. 12 seed in the AFC. The teams above them still fighting for a playoff spot are the 6-6-1 Pittsburgh Steelers, the 7-6 Denver Broncos, the 7-6 Cincinnati Bengals and the 7-6 Browns. The three teams that would qualify for the playoffs as wild cards if the season were to end today are the Los Angeles Chargers (8-5), Indianapolis Colts (7-6) and Buffalo Bills (7-6). 

There is only one team below the Raiders that has a chance to make the playoffs, and that's the 6-7 Miami Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa and Co. had a bye this past week, but they are streaking. The Dolphins have won five straight games, and with the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints next up on the docket, it's possible they could push that win streak to seven.

In summary, the Raiders aren't in a good spot. Not only do they need to win several games, but they will likely need other things to work in their favor as well. Vegas needs teams like Cleveland, Cincy, Denver, Pittsburgh and Miami to lose games. 

Remaining schedule 

Here's a look at each of the Raiders' four remaining opponents. 

  • Week 15: @ Browns (Saturday) 
  • Week 16: vs. Broncos 
  • Week 17: @ Colts
  • Week 18: vs. Chargers 

The Raiders' remaining opponents have a collective 29-23 record. In what could be looked at as a good thing or bad thing, the final four opponents on the Raiders' schedule are all teams they are battling with for a playoff spot. That's a beneficial thing since a win not only adds a 'W' to your record but also an 'L' to your opponent's record, but it's bad in the sense that Vegas doesn't have any "layups" left on the schedule. The Raiders don't get the Detroit Lions like the Broncos do, or the Houston Texans like the Chargers do.

Vegas has a tough road ahead, but beating Cleveland on Saturday would be a good start. Baker Mayfield has won three out of the past five, and has a Defensive Player of the Year contender on the other side of the ball in Myles Garrett. However, the Browns are wildly inconsistent and haven't won back-to-back games since Weeks 3 and 4. Since they defeated the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, they could be due for a loss!

Areas of improvement 

  • Third-down percentage: Scoring points wins games, and being able to keep your offense on the field will lead to more opportunities to score points. The Raiders have a big third-down problem, as Sunday marked five straight games with an under 37% conversion rate. Sunday was actually their best third-down performance in weeks, even though they were completely dominated. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson has to make it his mission to find a way to dominate third downs during this final stretch.
  • Week 14: Completed 4 of 11 (36%)
    Week 13: Completed 2 of 8 (25%)
    Week 12: Completed 3 of 13 (23.1%)
    Week 11: Completed 1 of 7 (14.3%)
    Week 10: Completed 1 of 9 (11.1%)
  • Find the big play: Derek Carr is playing solid football, and is currently second in the NFL with 3,926 passing yards. Still, he could be better. The Raiders quarterback dominated the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, as he threw for 373 yards and a touchdown. Hunter Renfrow, DeSean Jackson and Zay Jones all had huge games. However, against Washington, Renfrow was the only wideout who ate. This was in large part due to Carr failing to find the big play. In the first half on Sunday, on a second and short, Carr hit his check-down Jacobs without taking an extra second to survey his options. He missed a wide-open Jackson, who would have picked up at least 20 yards. It wasn't the only time TV cameras showed a wide-open Jackson looking for the ball. The same seemed to happen with Jones in the red zone, as Carr opted to try Foster Moreau in the middle of the field instead of Jones one on one on what appeared to be a post route. You'd like to see more big plays from the passing game, especially since the Raiders' rushing attack ranks fourth-worst in the NFL. 
  • Slow starts: Both Jacobs and Renfrow talked about the Raiders' slow starts on offense after the loss to Washington, and they had their worst slow start of the season against the Chiefs. Not only did Jacobs fumble and allow a touchdown on the first play of the game, but Vegas turned the ball over three times on the way to getting outscored 35-3 just in the first half. Not many teams are going to come back from that kind of deficit even with two quarters to work. 


How far will Las Vegas go this season?

It's not looking good for the Raiders. According to Caesars Sportsbook, the Raiders are +900 on "yes" to make the playoffs while "no" is -1800. 

I'm not feeling as confident about the Browns matchup after last Sunday, but in this original article I predicted an 8-8 Raiders team entering the regular-season finale with the Chargers. Still, I ultimately don't see them making the playoffs. 

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