By Sam McPherson
On their way to a 4-12 record last year, the 2012 Oakland Raiders went 1-7 on the road. The previous year, the team achieved an 8-8 mark overall on the strength of a 5-3 road record.
So when anyone looks at this current 2013 Raiders squad with its 3-6 record as it heads into Week 11 of the National Football League season, they will notice the glaring 0-4 record away from Oakland and draw an easy conclusion.
It’s an old cliché in the NFL, but to make the postseason, you have to be gunning for at least a .500 record on the road while winning the majority of your game at home — that’s the formula for the NFL playoffs, so the 2013 Oakland Raiders, obviously, are a bit away from that target.
But they’ve been so close on the road this year. In Week 1 against one of the American Football Conference’s strongest teams, the Indianapolis Colts, the Silver & Black came up just short in a 21-17 loss. The Raiders led 17-14 in the fourth quarter, actually, before Andrew Luck scrambled for a 19-yard touchdown run with just 5:20 left in the game.
And last week, of course, Oakland led the New York Giants 20-14 late in the third quarter before Eli Manning directed a couple of scoring drive to win the game, 24-20.
The Raiders are close, but they aren’t there yet in terms of closing the deal on the road when they have a chance.
(Never mind the ugly road losses to top-notch division foes Denver and Kansas City by a combined 33 points. We all know Oakland isn’t in that class, yet.)
That ability to win close games on the road when given the opportunity can make or break your season. Consider the last decade of Raiders’ road games, since the team made the Super Bowl after the 2002 regular season, losing to their old coach, Jon Gruden, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
- 2012: Lost at NFC South champion Atlanta, 23-20, and lost at San Diego, 24-21. Went 1-7 on the road en route to a 4-12 record;
- 2011: Lost at Buffalo, 38-35, to go 5-3 on the road in an 8-8 season. If they’d won that road game, the Oakland organization would have won the AFC West that year;
- 2010: Lost at Arizona, 24-23, before losing at San Francisco, 17-9, and at Jacksonville, 38-31. A 3-5 record on the road left the Raiders at 8-8 on the year;
- 2009: Lost at San Diego, 24-16, during a 5-11 season where Oakland finished just 3-5 away from the Coliseum;
- 2008: Lost at Buffalo, 24-23, and lost at Miami, 17-15, on their way to another 3-5 away, 5-11 overall season;
- 2007: Lost at Denver, 23-20, before losing at Tennessee, 13-9, and at Minnesota, 29-22. The Raiders went 4-12 overall, including just 2-6 on the road;
- 2006: Oakland was winless on the road, while posting an overall 2-14 record. But they lost by ten at Denver, by just four at Kansas City, and by seven at San Diego;
- 2005: Lost by three at Philadelphia and lost by four at Kansas City on the way to a 4-12 season, including a 2-6 mark away from the Coliseum;
- 2004: Lost by three in Pittsburgh and lost by one in Kansas City during a 5-11 season with a 2-6 road mark;
- 2003: Following the Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay, the Raiders went 0-8 on the road and lost six road games by a combined 34 points on their way to a 4-12 season.
Quick math shows us an overall mark in this futile decade of 49-111, with just a 21-59 record on the road.
(Just for comparison’s sake, during Oakland’s three-year playoff run in 2000-02, the Rich Gannon-led Raiders went 33-15 overall and 15-9 on the road.)
Now, in some of these sad seasons listed above, a few extra road wins wouldn’t have mattered in the grand scheme of things. The Raiders still would have been a bad team. But in seasons like 2011 or 2010, where winning those close games could have gotten Oakland into the playoffs? The importance of winning close games on the road can never be underestimated in the modern NFL. The 2003 represents the train-wreck possibilities when your talent just doesn’t come through when it matters the most.
And sure, the Oakland organization may not have had the best “talent” on the field in a lot of these seasons above, but sometimes, hard work and smart play can overcome a lack of talent in crunch time — everyone knows this.
So as the Raiders approach this weekend’s matchup against the Houston Texans on the road, it’s important to note a few things: 1) The Raiders probably aren’t making the playoffs this year, no matter what, simply because Kansas City (9-0) and Denver (8-1) are having such amazing seasons in the AFC West already; but, 2) The Texans have lost seven games in a row, including four games by three points or less, so they are on the down side of this equation just as Oakland has been in 2013.
Thus, it’s all the more important for the Raiders to win on Sunday and starting building some positive momentum for 2014 and beyond.
If they don’t, that postseason-absence streak of 10 seasons now is just going to grow longer and longer.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.