Yeah, I said it. It may be impossible for any devoted Raider fan to actually root against their own team. I am not quite suggesting that. I would, however, suggest an alternative. Because while winning is always the best, losing this game has a few silver linings to it. So if the outcome doesn't go in the Raiders' favor, it still carries some good news with it.
The first good news would be what it could do to the playoff picture...
For Raider fans, the teams typically hated the most are the division rival Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers. Add the Patriots and Steelers for their fraudulent playoff wins in the past. At this moment the Chargers and Patriots are in so there is nothing that can be done about that. But the Broncos and Steelers both need some help to get in.
The scenario is that if the Broncos, Jets, and Ravens all win, the Broncos are the ones who will be left out because of various factors including having lost head to head to the Ravens during the season. However, that also means that if either the Ravens or the Jets lose and the Broncos win, the Broncos are in. Of course if the Broncos lose to the Chiefs, they are out regardless.
It is understandably a difficult situation to be in but realize that the Broncos and their fans will actually be pulling for the Raiders to win on Sunday -- which is just weird.
The Jets face a very beatable Bengals team on Sunday to try and get into the playoffs.
For the Steelers, their road to the playoffs will be more difficult. They would need to beat the Dolphins, and have at least three of the four teams ahead of them lose. Those teams are, of course, the Broncos, Ravens, Jets, and Texans. So the Steelers and their fans are another group that will be rooting for the Raiders to win on Sunday -- equally as weird as the Bronco fans shouting "Go Raiders!"
An odd fact in all of this is that the Raiders played a pivotal role in putting the Broncos and Steelers in this fight for their playoff lives in the first place. The Raiders beat both teams in that last month. If the Raiders had lost to those teams, they would have clinched a playoff spot already. And if the Raiders lose to the Ravens on Sunday, they could finish the job in ensuring both the hated Broncos and Steelers are sitting at home watching the playoffs with them.
So that means this Sunday Raider fans will root for the Jets, Dolphins, Chiefs, Texans and... Ravens?
The other way the Raiders could benefit from losing is with their draft position. If they lose to the Ravens, the Raiders could jump as high as the fourth overall pick. If the Raiders win, they could fall as far as the tenth overall selection.
Granted, the last three top ten picks the Raiders have had have not lived up to expectations to put it lightly. Those picks were Darrius Heyward-Bey (09, #7), Darren McFadden (08, #5), and JaMarcus Russell (07, #1). But the Raiders have certainly blew plenty of lower first round selections as well so it is better to have the higher pick at any rate. Besides, it isn't all about the top pick anyway. A higher first round pick means high selections in every round after that as well.
This also means that should the Raiders want to actually trade a pick, it has greater value to a prospective team.
So as I said, I don't expect any Raider fan to root against the Raiders. But remember that this Raiders team has put itself in a win-win situation here. By beating the Steelers and Broncos, the Raiders are now in a position to decide the entire AFC wildcard picture.
The win carries a bit of good news too, mind you. If they beat the Ravens, they will knock them out of the playoffs to end the season as they did the Bucs last season. The Ravens aren't exactly on the Raiders nice list after Tony Siragusa belly flopped on Rich Gannon in the playoffs in 2000. If you are not familiar with the play, it knocked Gannon out of the game and the Ravens ended up winning. Siragusa was not called for a penalty and not fined afterward despite an obvious roughing with intention of causing bodily injury. But I digress.
If the Raiders do come out on the wrong side of the scoreboard, Raider fans can take some joy in picturing the sad faces of Bronco and Steeler players and fans as they come that much closer to seeing their playoff hopes dashed, all the while raising the Raiders' draft position by as much as six spots.
So grab a beer, sit back and watch (or listen as it were) as the Raiders ring in the new year with a win. No matter what happens.