As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez notes, the path to the Oakland Raiders' return to the postseason for the first time since 2016 (and second time since 2002) is pretty straightforward.
Win, and they're in.
If the Raiders beat the New York Jets (3-7) this week, they'll head to Arrowhead Stadium seven days later with first place in the AFC West on the line against the Kansas City Chiefs, who held on against the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday in Mexico City to improve to 7-4.
The Chiefs, who are on their bye this week, have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Raiders due to their 28-10 victory on Sept. 15 in Oakland.
"It just says that we're getting better," head coach Jon Gruden said of his team's sudden playoff contention in his second year back with the franchise. "We're able to find ways to win. There's an old saying around here: Just win, baby. We've fought our hearts out to put ourselves in a 6-4 position. That doesn't mean anything. We've got a lot of respect for the Jets and a lot of work to do."
Indeed, it would be easy to view this as a "trap game" at the Jets.
"I can't speak for the team, but I know personally, I don't look ahead," rookie running back Josh Jacobs
said. "Even coming into this week, I didn't even know Cincinnati's record. I didn't know any of the stats. I just looked at film and take it day by day and opponent by opponent."
The Raiders can owe much of their success to the performance of their rookie class, led by Jacobs, whose 1,067 yards from scrimmage are the ninth most for a Raiders player through 10 games.
Fourth-round defensive end Maxx Crosby is coming off a four-sack game; No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell had 2½ sacks two weeks ago; fourth-round tight end Foster Moreau
has four TD catches; and fifth-round receiver Hunter Renfrow
has 33 catches and two TDs.
The Raiders have the most yards from scrimmage (1,676), TDs (14), yards rushing (937), receptions (73) and sacks (10) from the rookie class, and are the first team since sacks became an official stat in 1982 to get at least 10 TDs and 10 sacks from rookies in the first 10 games of season.
"We try to put more on them every week," Gruden said. "We're not limiting anything. I think that's the key for their development."
Worth noting, The Jets are allowing a league-low 79.1 yards rushing per game after holding Washington to 54 last week. Opponents are also averaging a league-low 2.98 yards per carry vs. New York.
Only one player has rushed for 100 yards against the Jets this season: Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott
, who had 105 on 28 carries in Week 6. New York will have a tough task this week in facing Jacobs, who has three 100-yard performances and ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing
with 923 yards.
"He's playing about as well as anybody," Jets coach Adam Gase said. "His yards after contact, the amount of missed tackles that have occurred against him, I think he's the best one in the league."
In addition, Derek Carr
is playing some of his best football of late despite throwing his first interception in four games last week. He's averaging an NFL-best 9.2 yards per attempt over the past six weeks and is on pace to set career highs in completion percentage (72.3 percent), passer rating (105.2) and yards per attempt (8.0).
Carr will try to reverse a trend of cold-weather struggles this week when temperatures are supposed to be in the 40s. Carr is 2-8 in his career in games that started with the temperature below 50 degrees, with just a 66.3 passer rating in those 10 games.
"I love it cold," Carr said. "If I could have it 50 degrees in my house, I would. My wife would kill me, but I'd do it. So, I've never really minded the cold or anything like that."
As for Carr's downfield weaponry, FantasyPros' Mike Tagliere notes that when a receiver has a ceiling of four receptions over a six-week period -- as Tyrell Williams
does, you need some big catches and/or touchdowns to get him into the WR3 conversation.
The good news?
That's certainly possible with Williams against the Jets. They've allowed the second-most fantasy points to the wide receiver position, including 15 touchdowns. The one worrisome part is that no receiver has scored more than 15 PPR points against them while seeing less than seven targets, again, a number Williams hasn't hit since returning from his foot injury four weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Darren Waller
has seen at least five targets in 9-of-10 games, so we know he's a weekly start. He's also totaled at least 50 yards in seven games, something only Travis Kelce
, Zach Ertz
, and George Kittle
According to Tagliere, the Jets haven't been a matchup you need to run from, as they've allowed five different tight ends total 41-plus yards, including a six-catch, 95-yard game to Mike Gesicki