Football

Playoff-bound Raiders back in rankings roundup’s top three

Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, right, and defensive tackle Darius Latham celebrate during an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in San Diego. The Raiders had plenty to celebrate, including their first postseason berth since the 2002 season.
Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, right, and defensive tackle Darius Latham celebrate during an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in San Diego. The Raiders had plenty to celebrate, including their first postseason berth since the 2002 season. The Associated Press

Little by little, win by win, the Raiders are opening eyes around the county.

At least that appears to be the case based on the five polls sampled here (ESPN, Bleacher Report, USA Today, CBS Sports and The Associated Press).

After clinching Oakland’s first playoff berth in 14 seasons with a 19-16 win over the Chargers, the Raiders averaged a 3.2 ranking, a full place above last week’s 4.2. They have averaged a 3.2 in three of the past four weeks.

The Raiders’ 11 wins are the most since going 11-5 in 2002, the season that ended with a lopsided Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers. That long postseason drought began the next season.

As for the rest of the state’s NFL teams, the only one to go up in those polls were the Rams, who somehow went from 28.4 to 28.2 despite a 24-3 loss to the Seahawks.

The Chargers dropped slightly to 24.8, and the 49ers checked in with 31s in all five polls following their 41-13 loss to the Falcons. It was their 13th loss in a row, an ongoing franchise record. It was their 11th week in a row with an average ranking of 30th or lower.

Sorting the data:

Raiders

Average rank: 3.2

Average change: +1.0

High/low: 3/4

From USA Today (No. 3): “Perceived (defensive) weakness allowed just 16 points to high-powered Chargers on way to ending 14-year playoff drought.”

Chargers

Average rank: 24.8

Average change: -1.6

High/low: 24/26

From ESPN (No. 26): “They can’t let the Browns hang around (Saturday): San Diego has lost six games in which it held a lead in the fourth quarter this season.”

Rams

Average rank: 28.2

Average change: -0.2

High/low: 28/29

From CBS Sports (No. 28): “So the firing of Jeff Fisher didn’t change anything. This is still a bad team.”

49ers

Average rank: 31.0

Average change: -0.4

High/low: 31/31

From USA Today (No. 31): “Seeing Rams on Christmas Eve should stir some warm memories ... from 15 weeks ago ... when the Niners enjoyed their lone win with Chip Kelly.”

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