Self-preservation being what it is, the new and improved Raiders are looking at the termination of their 2010 season as the year the West was won.

Coach Tom Cable is rallying the troops for a season-ending win in Kansas City that would put the Raiders at 6-0 against their AFC West rivals. Pyrrhic victories being what they are, it doesn't mean a heck of a lot at the moment.

"You lose, and it's like you die a little bit," safety Mike Mitchell said after Sunday's 31-26 defeat to the Indianapolis Colts before 52,567 fans at the Oakland Coliseum. "This is our team, and (next year) it's not going to be the exact same team. This team, we died."

Cause of death?

Inability to shed many of the same problems that have plagued the Raiders since 2003 in games played outside their own division.

The Chiefs won the AFC West with a 34-14 victory over Tennessee, coupled with San Diego's 34-20 loss in Cincinnati.

Gone are the Raiders' hopes of winning the West. Gone is the hope of a remake of 1999, when they went to Arrowhead Stadium on the final week of the season and knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs.

All that remains is trying to become the first team since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to run the table within its division and still not make the playoffs.

Blame Sebastian Janikowski and his 32-yard chip-shot miss against Arizona if you must, but the Raiders aren't going to the postseason because they don't yet deserve to go to the postseason.


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While it's true the Raiders appeared to have gotten the bad end of a few pass interference calls, there wasn't anyone in the locker room saying the better team lost Sunday.

Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes and expertly guided the Colts offense, but he had an advantage in that he was a quarterback who resides outside the AFC West.

The flip side of how good the Raiders have been within the division is how bad they are outside it. All the issues that have plagued the Raiders since their last playoff appearance during the 2002 season were in evidence against the Colts, as they have been virtually every other game out of their comfort zone.

The Raiders finished the non-AFC West portion of their schedule at 2-8. Same as they did in 2006 and 2007, during which time they were 6-26 overall. That's not even as good as they were in each of the last two years, when they were 3-7.

This twist with this year's Raiders is they have a split personality, AFC West juggernauts who revert into their inglorious recent past the moment they get into unfamiliar terrain.

Those Raiders teams were notoriously poor against the run, so with that in mind, it shouldn't have been a great shock to see the pass-first Colts run 39 times for 191 yards, their biggest rushing game since 2007.

With Oakland employing a "big nickel" defense, taking out a weakside linebacker in favor of Mitchell, the Colts attacked relentlessly on the ground.

No doubt the Colts noticed that while Oakland slammed the door on AFC West teams to the tune of 79.4 yards per game on the ground and 3.4 yards per carry, everyone else has rushed for 162.6 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry.

Oakland may slam the door on the Chiefs' Thomas Jones, but journeyman Dominic Rhodes came to town Sunday and gained 98 yards on 17 carries.

Indianapolis kept the Raiders' second-ranked rushing game under control, with Oakland getting 80 yards on 20 carries. Of course, the Raiders aren't quite the operators outside the division on the ground as they are within it.

Against the AFC West, the Raiders average 213.2 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry on the ground and Darren McFadden checks in at 117.5. Against everyone else, Oakland averages 121.9 yards and 4.6 yards per carry and McFadden averages 76.4.

The Colts closed off the perimeter, and the Raiders were either unable or unwilling to attack an Indianapolis defense in what has been a soft middle for much of the season.

McFadden finished with 45 yards on 11 carries and a sprained ankle. Michael Bush had 19 yards on three attempts. Bad down and distance forced Jason Campbell to the air 42 times; he had 29 completions but for only 231 yards.

The Colts let Manning control the offense, and their Cover 2 defense rallied up to make tackles after short gains and played within a system that should help bring its eighth straight AFC South title.

The Raiders, meanwhile, flexed their muscle against those they knew the best and looked either lost or inconsistent against everyone else.

Good luck coming up with a slogan for that.

Contact Jerry McDonald at jmcdonald@bayareanewsgroup.com.