Raiders have 5 weeks to answer major questions after coming up short against tough opponents

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HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — The chances were there two weeks ago at Miami and again Sunday against Kansas City, but when it comes to taking advantage against the NFL's top teams, the Raiders aren't getting it done.

Las Vegas came within a Hail Mary pass of potentially sending their game against the Dolphins into overtime, but couldn't overcome three turnovers — or capitalize on three takeaways.

Then, against the Chiefs, the Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Kansas City outscored Las Vegas 31-3 the rest of the way.

The loss to the Chiefs especially stung. The Raiders have extra time to think about the ways they came up short against their AFC West rival now that they're on a bye. They next host Minnesota on Dec. 10.

“You've just got to find a way,” cornerback Amik Robertson said. "When you’re going against them, you've got to find a way. Especially if you go up like that, you've got to try to stay on their throats. That’s for both sides of the ball.

“We had a lot of losses this year, and just for me, that’s just the one that I wanted the most and, unfortunately, we came up short.”

The Raiders have made plays in key situations, but more often than not, those occurred against struggling teams.

There aren't many of those opponents left on the schedule. Only one of the remaining five teams has a losing record.

Maybe in that regard, the break comes at a good time for the Raiders (5-7). Plus, it's an opportunity for players like defensive end Maxx Crosby to have some extra recovery time. He played with a heavily wrapped knee against the Chiefs after being listed as doubtful that week.

“Twelve straight weeks in the National Football League, that’s tough,” interim coach Antonio Pierce said. "That’s hard on the body and for our guys. They fought. You saw Maxx Crosby did a hell of a job coming out there, Kolton Miller coming back. For those guys to come back and now to have an extra seven or so days to get ready before our next game before we play the Vikings is huge for our team.

"Also, I think it’s an opportunity for us to reset mentally. It’s been a lot of trying times this year. A lot of ups and downs, and you sit back, you reset, you think about it, spend some time with your family and coming towards end of the week you start missing football again that Friday, Saturday, Sunday you’re not playing. Get these guys back in the building on Monday and we’re ready to roll.”

The final five games will play a large part in what happens with this franchise going forward.

Do the Raiders play well enough that Pierce gets a genuine look at becoming the head coach, or will owner Mark Davis again go outside the organization in search of a big-name hire?

From there, whoever's in charge will decide how much of the current roster to keep. The players understand what the final stretch means for their futures.

Those include rookie quarterback Aidan O'Connell, who is being given the chance to keep the job even as the Raiders keep an eye on next year's QB-rich draft. Pierce said O'Connell is handling the position like a veteran.

“I do think the game is slowing down (for O'Connell),” Pierce said. “I don’t think it’s there yet for him. That takes a while for all of us, but I do see a guy that’s progressing as far as his mental capacity and what we’re able to do.”

Even though the Raiders are close to being eliminated from the playoff race, O'Connell and his teammates still have a lot on the line.

“We’re competitive, (Pierce is) a competitive coach, he was a competitive player playing,” Robertson said. "We know how this league is. You start off hot, everybody loves you. Now we lost two in a row and everybody has their own negative opinion. We've got to stay with each other and continue building, continue to trust in the guy next to us, and continue to compete and continue playing.”