Jadeveon Clowney is fading out of sight on the Raiders' radar screen.
The Raiders would have to pick first or second in the next draft to snag the already fabled South Carolina defensive end. So forget about clownin' for Clowney - that's a game for the bottom feeders.
With Sunday's 21-18 win over the Steelers, the Raiders (3-4) are not 52 funny guys climbing out of a teensy car; they're a legit football team. How good?
We'll know soon. The Raiders' next six opponents are .500 or below (Eagles 3-5, Giants 2-6, Texans 2-5, Titans 3-4, Cowboys 4-4, Jets 4-4).
This would have been crazy talk at the beginning of the season, but the Raiders can start dreaming of a stupendous 8-8 season. That wouldn't get them into the playoffs, but let's not get greedy.
"Wait," you might say, "didn't Al Davis himself say 8-8 is not a worthy goal?"
Yes. When someone suggested the Raiders' 8-8 record three seasons ago was a good thing, Davis sneered, "If that's the world you live in."
But let's be realistic: Some intelligent, objective projections for the Raiders called for two wins this season.
The Raiders, I must add, are not dreaming of 8-8, or any other numbers. Publicly at least, they're dreaming of playing well against the Eagles.
"We need to take it one game at a time," head coach Dennis Allen said, and I apologize for setting him up for that answer/lecture. Rookie mistake: I asked him about the upcoming schedule. No coach or player is going to get too enthused about a big win or start over-projecting about down the road.
"You've gotta go out and play every game," safety Charles Woodson said, swatting aside my question. "Ain't about the schedule or the records of people we're going to play. We don't want to sit around here and have our chin in the air about one win."
So Woodson will keep his long goatee pointed directly at the Eagles and not toward pie in the sky.
Fans and media members don't have to follow those same rules. We can get as crazy as we want in projecting, speculating and dreaming. The Raiders shouldn't win five of their last nine games, no way, but here are some reasons they can:
-- The read-option. This is the play that defenses supposedly caught up to in the offseason, but nobody told Terrelle Pryor. He optioned himself to a 93-yard touchdown run on the first play Sunday.
In training camp, when Pryor played himself up to second string, Allen threw together a package of plays for Pryor, just in case the Raiders ever had to use the young man. The read-option was a big part of the package, out of necessity.
If Matt Flynn had kept the starting job, Sunday's first play would not have been a read-option. Pryor and his read-option were gifts left on the Raiders' doorstep, but they've taken the gifts and run with 'em, figuratively and literally.
It's a real nuisance to the opposition, that read-option. The Raiders are careful not to overuse it and start looking like a clown team, but they don't keep it locked, either. On the Raiders' third touchdown drive, Pryor passed for 12 yards on an option play. Later in the drive, he helped himself to 6 yards on a pass-play scramble.
Pryor is still far from polished, but if opponents were allowed to vote for the Raiders' quarterback, they would vote for Anyone But Pryor.
-- Salary drives. I'm not saying money motivates players, but it might sometimes, and that bodes well for the Raiders. They have several players who are either on one-year contracts or are on the final year of contracts. Running back Darren McFadden and defensive end Lamarr Houston are in the latter category, and both are playing well.
McFadden is looking healthy, as quick as ever and effective on power runs through traffic. He averaged only 3.0 yards Sunday (24 carries, 73 yards), but if he stays healthy, he will draw plenty of interest in the offseason.
-- An invisible field-goal-deflector shield. The Raiders caught a huuuge break Sunday when the Steelers' Shaun Suisham pushed two easy field-goal attempts wide right.
In order to finish in the 8-8 neighborhood, the Raiders will need some breaks.
-- Attitude. The Raiders are showing a little vintage Raiders-like attitude, especially on defense, where several guys made big plays Sunday.
Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver was seen flipping the bird to the game officials on a call that went against the Raiders. You kids out there, I'm not saying this is cool or good. Don't do it.
But I guarantee you, this video clip will be seen in team meetings this week and greeted warmly. And the Raiders will try to take that attitude to the first snap Sunday.
Scott Ostler is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. E-mail:
This was an entertaining read!!