ALAMEDA, Calif. -- How do the Oakland Raiders, fresh off a pair of 31-point beatdowns on the road, get their wits about them at the quarter-pole of the season?
How does a team with so many youngsters playing so many key roles not let such unimpressive results become the norm, rather than the exception?
Why should you trust them to right the ship and go on a run and maybe, just maybe, snag just their second playoff spot since 2002?
"We've had a rough two weeks, I've had a rough two weeks," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said in the wake of Oakland losing consecutive games by at least 30 points for the first time since 1961 -- two years before Al Davis came to the East Bay. "It's time to get back on track. It's time to get back in our stadium, it's time to be efficient in our stadium, it's time to win ... I'm excited we get a chance to go compete against a really good football team.
"That's the really beautiful thing about this game -- rewind two weeks ago, we were the greatest story in the NFL. Two weeks later, we suck again."
New York Jets 34, Raiders 3
Kansas City Chiefs 40, Raiders 9
Up next are the Tennessee Titans (7-5), one of two teams the Raiders (6-6) are chasing for the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot. The good news is that the Raiders will be home rather than in the muck and mire of the Meadowlands or the freezing rain of Middle America.
Yes, the forecast calls for rain in Oakland on Sunday. And yet ...
"We're focused on a team that's 4-1 at the Oakland Coliseum," said Titans coach Mike Vrabel. "A defense that gives up 20 points a game at the Oakland Coliseum, an offense that averages 360 yards at the Oakland Coliseum and a team that's plus-four in turnover margin at home. So we're very well aware of the success that they've had."
Indeed, when the Raiders last played in the Black Hole, they were putting the finishing touches on a three-game winning streak, each game more exciting than the previous.
So what positivity can the Raiders cull from Arrowhead Stadium? Well, they held reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes to 175 yards passing, the second-fewest of his career. And they outgained the Chiefs in total yardage, 332-259. And, as rookie running back Josh Jacobs said, no one "gave up" in the Kansas City loss, which he said was different from the previous week at the Jets.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden, meanwhile, said he had a "confident group of guys" on the roster.
"We realize what we're up against," Gruden said. "The Titans are a great team ... they can do a lot of things, present a lot of problems. But we know what we're capable of doing if we play great football, and we play complementary football. That's the key."
They just haven't shown that the last two weeks. At all.
The Raiders are tied with the Indianapolis Colts (6-6) in the wild-card standings, though they hold the head-to-head tie-breaker over them. Oakland is chasing both the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) and Titans (7-5).
Among the four teams mentioned, Oakland has the easiest remaining schedule, in terms of opponents' records:
Steelers (7-5): at Arizona (3-8-1), vs. Buffalo (9-3), at N.Y. Jets (4-8), at Baltimore (10-2) [26-21-1]
Titans (7-5): at Oakland (6-6), vs. Houston (8-4), vs. New Orleans (10-2), at Houston (8-4) [32-16]
Raiders (6-6): vs. Titans (7-5), vs. Jacksonville (4-8), at L.A. Chargers (4-8), at Denver (4-8) [19-29]
Colts (6-6): at Tampa Bay (5-7), at New Orleans (10-2), vs. Carolina (5-7), at Jacksonville (4-8) [24-24]
But lose to the Titans and, well, that's basically a wrap.
"We need to treat every game like a playoff game, obviously," said rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby, who leads the Raiders with 7.5 sacks. "We've just got to learn from the little mistakes. We've been struggling on the little details and, clearly, it's bit us in the ass the last two weeks. So we've got to learn from it and make it happen right now. There's no time to wait; we've got four weeks and we've got to, you know, start making it happen."
Again, do you trust them?
Well, Carr is unbeaten against the Titans, going 3-0 and passing for 841 yards with five TDs and one interception while completing 64.4% (67-of-104) of his passes.
"If we just want to hang our heads and sulk, we can do that," Carr said. "But that's never how I've been and I don't think that's how this group is. Just hearing the encouraging words to each other and to the young guys, it's very impressive.
"We have four games left, which is a lot of football. There has been crazier things to happen."