As Justin Tucker‘s kick sailed through the uprights Saturday evening, the AFC West champions, the Denver Broncos, were eliminated from the NFL playoffs. The kick should have put a damper on the Oakland Raiders‘ day because no more divisional rivals are in the playoffs.
Like college teams rooting for conference mates in the postseason, NFL teams root for their division rivals to do well in the postseason. The better a team can do in the playoffs, the more prestige it brings to the division. The AFC West was arguably the worst division in football this year as the Broncos ran away from the rest of the pack. Denver racked up six relatively easy wins in the regular season over the mediocre divisional competition and the Broncos loss in the divisional round of the playoffs showcases just how easy their schedule was in the last 11 weeks.
For the Raiders it only highlights the fact they play in the worst division in the NFL. Oakland needed Denver to go far in the playoffs to bring some prestige back to the division, which hasn’t sent a team to the Super Bowl since the Raiders went in 2002. Every other division has had a Super Bowl participant in those 10 years and the NFC West is the only other division which hasn’t had a Super Bowl champion since 2002. Even more embarrassing for the AFC West is that it had the number one seed in the AFC and that team lost in its first home game.
The Broncos loss was painful for Denver fans, but it was nearly as painful for Oakland fans and the fans of the rest of the AFC West.