Raiders need win, help to return to playoffs

The final week of the season for the Oakland Raiders has been

mostly about the status of the coach, personal goals and planning

for the offseason the past eight years.

There’s plenty more on the line this season.

With a win at home in the finale against San Diego and a little

bit of help from some other teams, the Raiders (8-7) can make the

playoffs for the first time since their 2002 AFC championship

season.

Oakland still has a chance to win the AFC West or make the

postseason as a wild-card team depending on what happens Sunday.

While some of the potential scenarios are complicated, the simple

fact is this: If the Raiders lose to the Chargers, they will be

eliminated.

”I am not going to get caught up in all the different

scenarios,” coach Hue Jackson said Monday. ”I know they’re out

there. I think I would be remiss as the leader of this football

team if I just jumped over in that boat. I think the boat I have to

jump in is getting this team to play as hard and well as it can

play this weekend.”

The Raiders nearly lost any chance over the weekend in Kansas

City before being saved by a pair of blocked field goals by Richard

Seymour and a 53-yard pass from Carson Palmer to Darrius

Heyward-Bey on the first play of overtime to set up Sebastian

Janikowski’s winning kick in a 16-13 win.

Oakland won that game despite committing 15 penalties and

allowing another late touchdown drive that let Kansas City tie the

game in the closing minutes.

”We’re relentless, man,” safety Tyvon Branch said. ”Things

don’t always go our way, but we always fight, we fight to the end,

and that’s one thing I can say about us.”

Oakland will be fighting until the end of the season for a

change. Since going to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season,

the Raiders had an NFL-worst seven straight seasons with at least

11 losses. Oakland ended that run by going 8-8 last season, but the

Raiders were eliminated in the first quarter of their 15th game

when Kansas City clinched the AFC West.

In past years, elimination came far earlier in the season as the

Raiders were never really even in contention.

”This time of year you’re usually shipping your car home,

making travel plans,” linebacker Quentin Groves said. ”But now

it’s all about getting that W.”

And getting help.

Oakland needs a win and a Denver loss at home to Kansas City to

win the division. The Raiders can get a wild-card spot by winning,

having Cincinnati lose at home to Baltimore and either the New York

Jets winning at Miami or Tennessee losing at Houston.

The Jets and Titans play early Sunday, but the Broncos’ and

Bengals’ games will be simultaneous to Oakland’s, making for a

complicated day. While some players said they don’t want to know

what happens in the other games, receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said

it will be impossible for him not to get updates throughout the

day.

”I’m not going to be one of those guys that says, `I won’t be

paying attention.’ I will,” he said. ”But all of that doesn’t

matter if we don’t win. So the bottom line is, if we win, and we

don’t get in, it hurts, but, at least you handled your part of the

deal.”

Houshmandzadeh has been to the playoffs twice, with Cincinnati

in 2005 and Baltimore last season. Many of the other Raiders are

still looking for their first postseason trip.

Only punter Shane Lechler and kicker Sebastian Janikowski have

been to the playoffs as Raiders, making this a new situation for

most in the locker room.

”It feels good to be this close,” said safety Michael Huff,

who is in his sixth season. ”It’s been a while since it’s been

like this around here. It’s a good feeling. We know we have to go

out there and handle our business this week and everything will

take care of itself.”

Notes: RB Darren McFadden (right foot), WR Jacoby Ford (left

foot) and Huff (hamstring) all planned to run Monday to determine

how close they are to returning to practice. Huff, who has missed

the past two games, said he will play no matter what. Ford, who has

missed six games, said he would like to play as long as it didn’t

hurt the team. Jackson said he’d have a better idea Wednesday if

McFadden could return after missing the past eight games.