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Raiders’ Playoff Chances Are Not Easily Figured

Times Staff Writer

While the Raiders were playing the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, they were also watching the scoreboard for the San Diego Charger-Denver Bronco score. Only, they weren’t agreed on which team to root for.

Several of the front-office staff were actually pulling for the Broncos, who lead the Raiders by a game.

The Raiders won’t soon forget the Chargers’ 593-yard performance of Nov. 10. Home Box Office’s Larry Merchant called it the finest offensive showing he’d ever seen against a quality defense.

And the Chargers have the easiest remaining schedule--at Houston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, at Kansas City. A lot of Raiders wanted someone to beat the Chargers first.

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The Raiders still have their two games left with the Broncos, the first here Sunday. The argument goes that at least the Raiders have some control over how the Broncos will finish.

If the season were over, they Raiders would tie Miami for the last wild-card spot. The first tiebreaker is records in conference games, and they’re tied there, too.

The second tiebreaker is games against common opponents. Right now, the Raiders lead, 3-1 to the Dolphins’ 3-2.

But if the Raiders were to split their games with the Broncos, and the Dolphins were to beat the New England Patriots, they’d both be 4-2 against common opponents.

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They would then go to the third tiebreaker, point differential in AFC games. The Dolphins are a much higher scoring team, and they’ve had no horrific losses. The Raiders have that 33-3 loss in Seattle. If it comes down to these two teams, the Raiders might not have to worry about losing in the first round of the playoffs, just their TV reception.

Among the Raider problems are the Patriots, whom they defeated decisively, who have since gone 6-1. They’re 8-3, tied with the New York Jets, whom they will play Sunday in new York.

Raider Coach Tom Flores said: “The way it’s gone, with New England coming on, it does create a little cloud in your picture, there’s no question about it.”

Among the Bengals the Raiders will miss least is 250-pound Larry Kinnebrew, latest in the NFL’s series of appliance-size runners. The Raiders held him to 63 yards, but Kinnebrew let them know he’d been here.

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“He knocked me cold,” said Howie Long, laughing. “A guy that size has no business carrying the football.

“In their last series, I think I hit him in the thigh. His is the size of two thighs. I was glassy-eyed for four or five seconds. It was like I had been there before. I felt like I had dreamed it.

“They say he’s 250. If he’s 250, I run a 4.4. He’s got to be 285, 290.

“Matt Millen, he’s our beer-truck Raider. He’s Kinnebrew wearing No. 55.”

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Injured safety Mike Davis said: “Kinnebrew is much better than Pete Johnson (a former 250-pound-plus Bengal back). He has a little nift . If you’re going to tackle him, you’d better bring your breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s an all-day job.”

In Sunday’s fourth quarter, the Raiders put Curt Marsh in at guard, and the offense seemed to respond. Marcus Allen had 63 yards in 19 carries to that point, and 72 in 12 after that. The Raiders drove 73 yards for the winning touchdown.

Marsh and Don Mosebar are the club’s two best-regarded young offensive linemen. Marsh broke an arm in training camp, and is being brought back slowly, a lot more slowly than anticipated.

Flores said: “I thought we just picked up as a team. . . . We’re going to continue to use Curt in the second half. It’s a good change. It gives you a fresh person.

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“Curt’s a good football player, but Mickey (Marvin, starting right guard) has been playing very well. At this point, I don’t want to start making changes unless they’re absolutely necessary.”

Mike Davis underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage in his left knee last week, and is hoping to be playing when he’s eligible in two weeks.

Davis was off crutches before he left the hospital. He has full range of motion in the knee and will start rehabilitation this week.

Teammate Vann McElroy, the free safety, was forced out again Sunday when he re-pulled a hamstring. He is doubtful for the Bronco game, meaning that the Raiders will go with Stacey Toran, a coming second-year man, in Davis’ spot, and the recently re-acquired Odis McKinney in McElroy’s.

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Davis has undergone operations on a shoulder, arm, ankle and finger.

“Lester Hayes and I came in at the same time,” Davis said. “We’ve been through the wars together and he doesn’t have a scratch. I have four Purple Hearts.”


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