AFC playoff picture: Raiders on Chiefs' heels heading into Week 11

Josh Schrock

Raise your hand if you thought the Raiders would be thinking about the playoffs after they were rolled by the Vikings to open their five-game road trip in Week 3?

Anyone? Bueller?

Seven weeks after the Purple People Eaters hammered Jon Gruden's club, the Raiders sit at 5-4 and in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt. A Week 4 win over the Colts gave Oakland the tie-breaker over Indy for a wild-card spot, but the No. 5/6 seed might not be the only potential outcome for the Raiders. 

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The Chiefs roared out to a 4-0 start, but have lost four of their last six, including Sunday's loss to Ryan Tannehill and the Titans.

At 5-4, the Raiders now sit just a half-game back of the reeling Chiefs and are a much different team than the one KC beat 28-10 in Week 2.

Here's a look at where the AFC West stands entering Week 11, and what each team has ahead of them.

Kansas City Chiefs

Record: 6-4 (1st place)

Remaining schedule: at Chargers, Bye, vs. Raiders, at Patriots, vs. Broncos, at Bears, vs. Chargers

Outlook: Patrick Mahomes miraculously missed just two-plus games after dislocating his knee cap in Week 7. The Chiefs went 2-1 in his absence. The reigning MVP returned Sunday and looked like his old self, throwing for 446 yards and three touchdowns in the 35-32 loss. As long as Mahomes is out there, the Chiefs remain one of the most dangerous offensives in the league.

KC has a host of other issues, though. Their sloppy special teams and porous run defense were keys in the Titans pulling off the upset, and if those issues continue going forward, the Raiders very well could catch the Chiefs.

Not to mention, the Chiefs are ravaged on the offensive line. Both Eric Fisher and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif both were ruled out prior to the game against the Titans, and guards Mitchell Schwartz and Martinas Rankin suffered injuries during the game, meaning the Chiefs were one injury away from having a tight end slot in on the line.

If the Chiefs' line can't get healthy, they could be in trouble as the season winds down.

Raiders

Record: 5-4 (2nd)

Remaining schedule: vs. Bengals, at Jets, at Chiefs, vs. Titans, vs. Jaguars, at Chargers, at Broncos

Outlook:  Gruden should get a lot of votes for Coach of the Year. The Raiders have been ravaged by injuries, and yet, they keep fighting and winning.

The latest injuries came in Thursday night's win against the Chargers, when safety Karl Joseph was injured while making a game-sealing interception. He was placed on injured reserve Saturday. Slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner also was hurt in the win vs. the Chargers, and his status going forward is in question.

The Raiders only can survive so many injuries, especially on defense. But the offensive line finally was whole against the Chargers, and that unit will be vital to the Raiders being able to control the clock and grind out victories going forward. The Raiders remaining opponents are 24-42, so the path is there for them to complete their surprising run to the playoffs whether that be the wild card or the division.

Los Angeles Chargers

Record: 4-6 (3rd)

Remaining schedule: vs. Chiefs, at Broncos, at Jaguars, vs. Vikings, vs. Raiders, at Chiefs

Outlook: Thought to be a Super Bowl favorite before the season started, that Chargers' season has been derailed by a host of injuries and Melvin Gordon's holdout. The running back returned in Week 5, but he altered the chemistry of the offense as the Bolts tried to force-feed the running back causing the offense to become stagnant.

After the loss to the Raiders, the Chargers are faced with an improbable task of running the table to finish the season at 10-6. With two games against the Chiefs, a battle with the Vikings and a game against the Raiders remaining, the road looks tough for the Bolts.

[RELATED: Where Raiders sit in NFL power rankings after Week 10]

Denver Broncos

Record: 3-6 (4th)

Remaining schedule: at Vikings, at Bills, vs. Chargers, at Texans, at Chiefs, vs. Lions, vs. Raiders

Outlook: Joe Flacco is done and Drew Lock isn't back yet. Vic Fangio's first year won't be a success, but it's hardly his fault. Time to look to the draft, where hope springs eternal.

While the AFC West remains a possibility for the Silver and Black, they also are in the thick of the wild-card race, which the Bills and Steelers currently occupy. The Patriots currently own the No. 1 seed, the Ravens sit at No. 2, the Texans are in third and the Chiefs have the No. 4 seed.

Here's a look at what the other AFC wild-card contenders have in front of them over the last seven weeks.

Buffalo Bills

Record: 6-3 (No. 5 seed in AFC)

Remaining schedule: at Dolphins, vs. Broncos, at Cowboys, vs. Ravens, vs. Steelers, at Patriots, vs. Jets

Outlook: The Bills are 6-3, yes, but it reeks of a fraudulent 6-3. After losing to the rudderless Browns on Sunday, the Bills look even more pretender than contender. A tough remaining schedule sees them face the Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers and Patriots, all of which could be Ls and that might be enough to bounce them from the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Record: 5-4 (No. 6 seed in AFC)

Remaining schedule: at Browns, vs. Bengals, vs. Browns, at Cardinals, vs. Bills, at Jets, vs. Ravens

Outlook: It wasn't long ago the Steelers were 0-3 and looking at giving a top-10 pick to the Dolphins in the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade. But Fitzpatrick has revitalized the Steelers' defense, and Pittsburgh now has won five of its past six and looks to be in the driver's seat for a wild-card spot.

Games against the Bengals, Cardinals and Jets all should be wins, and if they can knock off the Browns and Bills, Mike Tomlin might take the Coach of the Year Award from Gruden.

The playoff road is there for the Raiders. A slide by the Bills immediately puts them in position to join the Steelers as a wild-card team, and if the Chiefs don't find a way to cure their many ails, an AFC West title is there for the taking.

First things first, though. The Raiders must beat Ryan Finley and the Bengals and then trounce the punchless Jets.

Sitting at 7-4 heading to Kansas City in Week 13 is a must.

AFC playoff picture: Raiders on Chiefs' heels heading into Week 11 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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