The one thing the Raiders’ roster lacks most is playoff experience.
Of Oakland’s 53 man active roster, only 11 players have experience in the postseason, likely to activate the national talking heads’ insatiable appetite to mention how having been there or done that can affect the outcome of a football game.
Perry Riley, Sean Smith, Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith, Kelechi Osemele, Dan Williams, Reggie Nelson, Nate Allen, Michael Crabtree, and Rodney Hudson came to Oakland with one or more postseason games under their belt.
Sebastian Janikowski, the Raiders’ longest tenured player, saw the postseason during his first few seasons with the Raiders, though his last trip was during the 2002 season — when the Oakland lost to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl.
Experience is a factor that doesn’t necessarily mean a team or player will have success playing in January.
Reggie Nelson, for instance, has made five postseason appearances, but no postseason wins. Malcolm Smith was the Super Bowl MVP after filling in for injured Seahawks during the 2014 season. And Kelechi Osemele earned himself a Super Bowl ring in his rookie season.
No doubt, the thing that generally wins postseason game is preparation, health and talent, though there’s an x-factor some players seem to display by coming through in clutch moments.
The only obvious thing in the playoffs, linebacker Bruce Irvin says, is that it’s win or go home:
“You lose, there’s no next week. … You gotta leave it all out there. Play your best players, have your best game plan, because there ain’t no next week. If you don’t handle business, around this time next week, we’re gonna be packing up.”
“There’s definitely a sense of urgency that needs to come with it. When we’re practicing, guys need to be on their assignment. Guys need to really hone in on and focus in on the game plan and make sure we execute this Saturday.”
Things could be worse for the 12-4 Raiders, even though they’re down their top two quarterbacks and among the league’s worst in defensive yards allowed and penalty yards. The morale could be down, but running back Jalen Richard says that’s not the case:
“We’re definitely in a position that we want to be in, granted we would love to go to the Super Bowl and have the road go through Oakland. Obviously it’s not going to be that way.”
A lot of the young players in the Raiders locker room seem to have come to the realization how rare the playoffs are, especially considering the number of NFL veterans who haven’t been despite long careers.
After speaking with vets like Irvin and Donald Penn, he’s learned this:
“Football is a game of blows, a game of highs and lows, adversities, and momentum changes. You have to be able to fight through the adversity. … If you talk about experience, I feel like it does help. I know the playoff game will be a different vibe, from what I’m hearing from older players and coaches, it’s definitely more intense. Every play can impact the game.”
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.