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The Raiders still had a sliiiiiight chance to make the NFL playoffs, but they missed out

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A LOT had to happen for Oakland to sneak into the postseason — but the team came up just short.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Most teams’ postseason fates were either sealed or close to being set heading into the last two weeks of the season. But for the Oakland Raiders, their playoff hopes were hanging on by the thinnest of threads. There was a lot that needed to happen to the teams in front of them, but they still had a (small) chance to make it in.

However, they missed out on that chance in Week 17.

Let’s look back to see what needed to happen in the last two weeks for the Raiders to miraculously get it into the playoffs.

How the Oakland Raiders could have made the playoffs

Oakland would first need to win its last two games. The Raiders also needed the Titans and Steelers to lose out, the Colts to win out, and the Browns to lose once. Here’s what that looks like:

  • Week 16: Raiders beat the Chargers
  • Week 16: Titans lose to the Saints
  • Week 16: Steelers lose to the Jets
  • Week 16: Colts beat the Panthers
  • Week 16/17: Browns lose to the Ravens OR to the Bengals
  • Week 17: Raiders beat the Broncos
  • Week 17: Titans lose to the Texans
  • Week 17: Steelers lose to the Ravens
  • Week 17: Colts beat the Jaguars
  • Week 17: Bears beat the Vikings OR Lions beat the Packers OR Chargers beat the Chiefs OR Patriots beat the Dolphins

Every Week 16 game went the right way. The Raiders beat the Chargers, the Colts beat the Panthers, and the Titans, Steelers, and Browns all lost.

In Week 17, however, the Titans won and the Raiders and Colts lost.

If the Week 17 games HAD gone their way, it would’ve resulted in a four-way tie between the Steelers, Titans, Colts, and Raiders. The Colts would’ve knocked the Titans out on the divisional tiebreak. Since Oakland beat Indianapolis in Week 4, that would’ve given the Raiders the nod over the Colts. The Raiders would then get the tiebreaker over the Steelers due to the “strength of victory” metric, if one of the Bears, Lions, Chargers, or Patriots win (which the Bears did).

How the Cleveland Browns could’ve made the playoffs

Update, Dec. 22: The Browns were eliminated after losing to the Ravens, but here’s a look at what they needed to happen.

There are four things that needed to happen for the Browns to earn a playoff bid. First, they needed to win their last two games, then have the Steelers and Titans lose out, and then the Colts need to win out. This is what that would look like:

  • Week 16: Browns beat the Ravens
  • Week 16: Steelers lose to the Jets
  • Week 16: Titans lose to the Saints
  • Week 16: Colts beat the Panthers
  • Week 17: Browns beat the Bengals
  • Week 17: Steelers lose to the Ravens
  • Week 17: Titans lose to the Texans
  • Week 17: Colts beat the Jaguars

That would put the Browns, Steelers, Titans, and Colts in a four-way 8-8 tie. The tiebreaking process would start with divisional tiebreakers. In this scenario, the Browns would win over the Steelers because they have a better AFC North record (5-1 compared to 3-3). In the AFC South, the Colts would have a better divisional record than the Titans (4-2 vs. 3-3). Since the Browns have a better conference record than the Colts (8-4 vs. 6-6), Cleveland would get the final AFC playoff spot.

That’s all a moot point now. Cleveland turned a 6-0 lead into a 31-15 loss to the Ravens in Week 16, eliminating them from postseason contention.


It was a long shot, and in the end, the Titans and Bills claimed the wild card bids in the AFC.