The upstart Las Vegas Raiders saw their playoff chances take a big hit Thursday night with a 30-27 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Raiders kicked a field goal in overtime, but a couple of costly penalties set up the Chargers in the red zone. Rookie Justin Herbert capitalized as his quarterback sneak gave the visitors the win with 1:29 to play.
The Chargers probably should have won the game in regulation, but Michael Badgley missed two field goals, and the Raiders rallied twice to tie the game. Las Vegas came back through backup quarterback Marcus Mariota, who threw for 276 yards and ran for 88 yards while accounting for a running score and a passing score. He was called into duty when Derek Carr was injured on the Raiders' second drive of the game.
The Raiders are not officially eliminated from the AFC playoff race, but at 7-7, they now need a lot of help. Both the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens are 8-5 going into this weekend's games as they battle for the final Wild Card spot. The Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts currently occupy the other Wild Card slots at 9-4.
Fans Expected at Super Bowl
Although they have not announced an exact number, the NFL is working with Florida authorities to allow fans to attend the Feb. 7 Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Commissioner Roger Goodell attended last Sunday's Buccaneers game and was impressed with the protocols in place. The league also announced a plan to invite and honor vaccinated health care workers at the Super Bowl.
COVID-19 Likely to Impact Offseason Plans
News of a COVID-19 vaccine this week has brought excitement to the sports world that we may be closer to having full stadiums, but Goodell cautioned that the vaccine may not be available to players for a while. Medical experts from both the NFL and the Players Association don't expect players to get the vaccine until it is available to the general public. However, older coaches and players with underlying health conditions may be an exception.
The NFL does have the benefit of time before the scheduled start of the 2021 season. Offseason events like the draft combine, the draft itself, or rookie camps could be impacted or delayed as they were in 2020.
The NFL has not indicated if it will mandate the vaccine for players, as that will have to be collectively bargained with the NFLPA.
A 17-Game Regular Season Closer for 2021
News from the owners' conference call on Wednesday included advanced discussion of adding a 17th game for the 2021 season. However, the owners did not formally vote on the addition this week.
The players union and the league agreed before the start of the 2020 season that one regular-season game could be added in 2021 and beyond.
The owners did approve the scheduling formula for the 17th game, should it happen. The matchup will be based on divisional standings from the previous season and on a rotating divisional basis.
Teams will play teams from inside their own conference. If a 17th regular-season game is added, then the preseason will lose at least one game.