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OAKLAND – Are the Raiders a good team?
It would be hard to say that they are, particularly after Sunday's 24-17 triumph over the humble New York Giants, led by Geno Smith.
Good teams do not let the Giants stay the way they did on Sunday. Good teams are not so careless with the ball. Good teams do not let Smith look like an NFL border quarterback.
So, are the Raiders a bad team?
You can not say that either. Bad teams can not tolerate 401 yards of total offense without their top two wide receivers in a game they must win. Bad teams do not close the game of opponents. Bad teams do not have Khalil Mack playing on the defensive side of the ball and Marshawn Lynch cheating 51-yard touchdown runs on the other side.
No, these Raiders are in the middle.
Call it what you want – mediocre, average, mediocre – that's what the Raiders are.
Oh, and they're also in a tie for first place in the AFC West.
What a strange season it has been so far.
This Raiders team might not look like a playoff contender on the field, but with good luck and opportunistic play, they're one in the standings, and that's all that matters.
And no matter how uninspiring this squad is, no matter how inconsistent its game, with four games to play, they have total and total control of their own playoff destiny. 19659003] "It's right in front of us, it's over there, everything we want to do is right there," Derek Carr said after Sunday's triumph. "The NFL … crazy."
At least I was not the only one who thought that this season had been crazy.
Remember: it was just to fire the Raiders after their shameful loss to Buffalo. It was justifiable to say that this team did not have what it takes after being defeated by the Patriots in Mexico City.
Has this Raiders team really improved since then? What has changed?
Yes, the pbading fever looks better in the last two games. And yes, the race game has also been more forceful in the last two contests (Lynch has 43 carries in consecutive wins by the Raiders).
The last two games could make you believe that this team – talented but defective – is solving things at the perfect moment.
Or maybe they have played two dysfunctional teams that will probably fire their coaches in the coming weeks and will probably be in the top five in the NFL Draft, meanwhile the Chiefs have imploded completely after a start of 5- 1.
Is not it logical to think that the real reason why Oakland is tied in the first place is that the landscape around them has changed while they have remained as the same team?  That's not a good thing. It's not bad either. He's in the middle of all that, just like the Raiders.
Offensive credit: The Raiders offense put the humble Giants away with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter (and unlike when the Giants lost the 49ers some weeks ago, they seemed to be trying to stop Oakland on Sunday) . That was a new and positive development.
But Sunday's game had all the hallmarks of a bloodbath: Lynch's touchdown run in the first quarter should have been a play that established the Raiders as the alpha. But instead of the Raiders going strong and keeping the Giants away before halftime (as they could have done), they followed Lynch's 51-yard touchdown run with three quarters of "meh" play before finding it on themselves to Win the game in the fourth quarter, which opened with a score of 10-7.
That kind of performance will not fly next week against Kansas City (no matter how dysfunctional that operation looks at the moment), or in the last three games of the season. against Dallas, Philadelphia and the Chargers.
The Raiders can not use good fortune to make the playoffs. Against four good teams, they must prove they are worthy of the postseason by winning.
Now, the standard for success might not be so high: 8-8 could win the embarrbading AFC West. But if the Raiders are a "growing" team, as many affirmed the post-triumph glow, a team that should be taken seriously by the rest of the league and not just by an average team in a division worse than mediocre. has a team on the rise, a team in free fall and a team that remains stable (in the macro, by no means is it soft in the field) – then they will have to prove it by winning in Kansas City for the first time since 2012.
Being average has taken the Raiders here, much further than any reasonable person should have expected.
But now they need to do something they have not been able to do all year: prove they are more than average.