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The Las Vegas Raiders have faced scandal and tragedy and controversy of seemingly every stripe during the 2021 NFL season. Somehow, though, the team has persevered and is now on the verge of making the 2021 NFL Playoffs. Here is how the Raiders clinch a playoff berth in Week 18 and what to watch for while they try.

How the Las Vegas Raiders clinch a playoff berth in Week 18 vs. the Los Angeles Chargers

Marcus Mariota of the Las Vegas Raiders celebrates scoring his sides fourth touchdown with Derek Carr during the third quarter of the NFL game between Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 25, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. The Raiders clinch a playoff spot with a win in Week 18 vs. the LA Chargers.
Las Vegas Raiders Foster Moreau, Marcus Mariota, and Derek Carr | Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images.

Week 18’s Sunday Night Football game will ostensibly be the Las Vegas Raiders’ second playoff game of the 2021 season, and the postseason hasn’t even started yet.

After prevailing in (what turned out to be) a win-or-go-home game for them vs. the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17, the Raiders once again face a (near) dire scenario.

The easiest path to a Raiders clinch is for the team to beat its AFC West rival LA Chargers. That guarantees them a spot as an AFC Wild Card team.

However, unlike the Chargers, the Raiders do have a scenario where they could lose on Sunday and still make it. If the Colts lose (at the Jacksonville Jaguars) and the Pittsburgh Steelers fall (at the Baltimore Ravens), the Las Vegas Raiders clinch a playoff spot even if they go down to the Chargers.

There is one more scenario that gets the Silver and Black into the postseason. And it is the possibility everyone in the NFL sphere is talking about heading into Week 18.

How the Raiders and Chargers both get in, aka the scenario everyone is talking about

The NFL flexed the Las Vegas Raiders vs. LA Chargers game to Sunday Night Football because it is the closest thing to a winner-goes-on/loser-goes-home game Week 18 has to offer.

The problem is, that isn’t exactly true.

The Chargers can get in with a win or a tie in Week 18. And, if the Colts lose to the Jaguars Sunday at 1 PM EST, the Raiders can also make the playoffs with a tie.

This presents a problem for the NFL on Sunday night.

If the Colts lose earlier in the day, both teams will know a tie gets them into the playoffs. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley has already come out and said, via The Rich Eisen Show, “I think we all respect the game and the NFL shield and the integrity of this game far too much to be complicit in something like that.”

That said, if the game is close late, will a coach gamble for the win and go for it on 4th down? Or throw for it on 3rd-and-8? They definitely won’t go for two at the end of regulation to try and get the W if a tie is just as good.

This wacky scenario alone should be enough to get you to tune in and possibly see one of the weirdest game-ending periods in NFL history.

Matchup of the game: Derek Carr vs. Joey Bosa

The other big reason to tune in, besides playoff berths on the line and a potentially historic ending, is to watch the battle between Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr and LA Chargers DE Joey Bosa.

The two stars have faced off against each other in the AFC West twice a year for five-plus years now. The rivalry between the passer and passer-sacker heated up back in Week 4 of the 2021 season, though.

The 2-1 Chargers beat the 3-0 Raiders 28-14 to even their records at 3-1 that week. After the game, Bosa dropped some harsh truth bombs on the Raiders signal-caller in his postgame presser.

“We knew once we hit him a few times, he really gets shook,” said the four-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher. “We knew once we get pressure on him, he kind of shuts down. And he’s not as effective with a crowded pocket, so that was the key to it.”

Despite the loss — which made it seem like there was some truth to Bosa’s comments — Carr did not take this slight lying down. 

“He was probably mad because I was talking a lot of crap to him during the game,” the QB responded the next day. “Maybe he was just trying to get under my skin. Which, he did piss me off. So, good job for that. But that’s not a bad thing, either.”

Watching to see whether Bosa and company can once again get Carr “shook” or see if the signal-caller can make the defender eat his words on the way to a Raiders clinch is another great reason to tune into the last regular-season NFL game of the 2021 campaign. 

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference


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