The Raiders talked a lot about putting a difficult loss to Jacksonville behind them, only to have it seemingly carry through a mistake-prone first half in a game they absolutely had to have against Denver. Then Oakland asserted a dominance similar to that of the previous meeting, prevailed 39-23 and 14 games into the season is still in the picture for an AFC West title.
Wins by the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets put two teams at 10 wins who are not division leaders. Oakland, 7-7, can't do any better than 9-7. It's a division title or bust.
The Raiders host the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 26 and finish the season at Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 2. They trail both the Chiefs, 9-5, and San Diego Chargers, 8-6. The Raiders will know by the time they take the field against the Colts whether Kansas City has knocked out their playoff hopes. San Diego, meanwhile, would need to lose one of their remaining two games against Cincinnati and Denver. It's hardly a cakewalk, and pretty unlikely, but considering what has gone on with the Raiders since 2003 and seven straight seasons of 11 or more losses, to still have hope entering Week 16 is new territory for players who have been around awhile.
"It's good to be in this position," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "I wish we were in a better position, but all we can do is control how we play from here on out."
Oakland took control of the Denver game by choking off the Tim Tebow led offense to a pair of field goals and 73 yards of offense. Tebow had a 40-yard run and 33-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd in the first half in a 17-17 tie. In the second half, the Broncos gained 17 yards on 15 carries and had just 73 yards on 24 snaps.
Oakland had a safety, when Quentin Groves dropped Correll Buckhalter in the end zone, field goals of 35 and 47 yards by Sebastian Janikowski, a 73-yard touchdown pass from Campbell to fullback Marcel Reece and a 1-yard run by Michael Bush.
"We're back to .500, we're 7-7, but the whole goal is to somehow get a chance at this thing, and we let last week slip away from us," coach Tom Cable said. "All we can do is take care of our part, and I'm proud of what we did today."
TRENDING: With one AFC West game to play, the Raiders continued to reverse the trend of getting trampled in the running game and instead are doing the trampling.
In five games, all of which the Raiders have won, they've rushed for 1,066 yards on 201 carries (5.3 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns as opposed to 397 yards on 118 attempts (3.4) and two touchdowns.
LINEUP WATCH: With right tackle Langston Walker leaving the game and needing help from his teammates to reach the sideline after a concussion, Mario Henderson, the former starter at left tackle, played at right tackle and could start this week and possibly in the season finale.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL PLAYER NOTES
--RB Darren McFadden rushed for 119 yards and has 1,112 yards this season in 12 games (he missed two with a hamstring strain). McFadden is the first Raiders running back to break 1,000 yards since Lamont Jordan had 1,025 yards in 2004.
--CB Nnamdi Asomugha played a limited amount of snaps in the second half because of his sore ankle.
--DT Richard Seymour did not finish the game because of a hamstring strain.
--P Shane Lechler strained a hamstring and couldn't punt in the first half, with Sebastian Janikowski hitting a 33-yard line drive that was fumbled by Syd'Quan Thompson.
--WR Jacoby Ford ran 71 yards with a reverse on the first play from scrimmage for the Raiders and has five touchdowns this season.