ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Jack Del Rio has a number in mind when it comes to how many victories it may take for the Oakland Raiders to return to the playoffs.
Are you sitting down? Good.
Because in his estimation, it probably takes 10 victories, and the Raiders ended the first half of the season just 3-5. As quarterback Derek Carr said, on a totally different subject, mind you, it’s simple math, really.
The Raiders have to go 7-1 in the second half of the season to get to 10-6, and at least Sunday night’s 27-24 victory at the Miami Dolphins got them started, right? Right?
“I think this year is one of those years where it’s very competitive throughout the league,” Del Rio said Monday in his weekly media conference. “I don’t know that there’s one team that’s so dominant that everybody shudders at the thought of playing them. I think there are a lot of good teams, and a lot of very capable teams. It’s a matter of going out and executing well and playing good football and finding a way to win on Sunday.”
Del Rio referenced the Philadelphia Eagles, who have the best record in the NFL at 8-1 but also have three victories of less than five points each. Plus, their lone loss was to the Kansas City Chiefs, a team the Raiders already beat.
The Raiders, meanwhile, have lost to the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers by a combined seven points. And how much more alluring does a 6-3 record sound than 4-5 at the moment?
Oh, and Oakland plays at Philadelphia on Monday Night Football on Christmas night.
“The bottom line is you keep playing, keep improving,” Del Rio said. “You want to get hot at the right time. For us, there’s no time like the present to get hot.
“Hey, this is reality. This is reality in the National Football League. It doesn’t mean that [10 wins] necessarily gets it done -- sometimes less gets it done -- but this is just to understand where you are at the halfway point. We’ve got very little margin for error. We need to get it rolling now. The urgency needs to pick up.”
The Raiders will enjoy their bye week first, though, before playing a “home game” in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca on Nov. 19 against the New England Patriots.
Del Rio’s mantra heading into the Miami game was that Oakland needed to get its “mojo” back if it wanted to make a run.
“One game at a time, man, one game at a time,” Raiders All-Pro edge-rusher Khalil Mack said after Sunday night's game. “That’s part of the mojo, as well -- not focusing on two games from now, three games from now. Putting all the focus on one team, and getting one win at a time.”
We’ve already broken down the remainder of the Raiders' schedule, which is brutal. In fact, their last seven opponents have a combined winning percentage of .552.
But after last weekend’s games, with Kansas City losing its third game in four weeks, the Broncos getting smashed by the Eagles and the Chargers idle, the Raiders are suddenly in second place in the AFC West, with just four teams ahead of them in the wild-card race.
Too soon to contemplate such things?
“You know, different people focus on different things,” Del Rio said. “I think, for us, the focus wants to be about just playing well and the process of playing well and preparing and all of that. But, you can’t help but look.
“Heck, I’m looking all the time. That’s just the fan aspect, but the professional aspect, we have to just focus on the process of what goes into playing really well, understanding your assignment, being accountable, doing your job, basic stuff. … Just keep stacking wins and find a way to win the next one and we have a tough challenge going against the Patriots.”
And keep this in mind: while the Raiders were a wild card at 12-4 last year, the Dolphins were the second wild-card team at 10-6.