OAKLAND -- In the NFL, things can turn in an instance.
Three weeks ago, the Raiders were the darlings of the NFL, having used a three-game winning streak to catapult themselves into the AFC playoff picture. They were headed on the road to face a Jets team that has a myriad of issues. A 7-4 record and a date with the Chiefs to decide the AFC West was in their sites.
Things didn't go according to plan.
The Raiders were ripped limb from limb by the Jets, and then headed to Kansas City where the Chiefs bullied them all around a freezing Arrowhead Stadium to drop Oakland to 6-6.
So the Raiders returned home, needing a win Sunday against the Titans to stop the bleeding and keep realistic playoff dreams alive. Instead, the Raiders were torched by Ryan Tannehill as the Titans strolled to a 42-21 win at the Coliseum.
A third straight dud has left the Raiders stunned and searching for answers.
"That's how things happen in this league," guard Richie Incognito said. "We got home after the big road test, we got the three in a row, in my opinion, we probably weren't playing our best ball during that three-week stretch but we were winning. Then we take the trip over to New York and get exposed, went to Kansas City and they jumped on us and then today. I'm pretty shocked that we are in this position."
The losses have been deflating and embarrassing. It hasn't been death by 1,000 cuts, but three gigantic gashes that have left the Raiders bleeding out hoping for a miracle to snag an AFC playoff spot that appeared to be theirs three weeks ago.
The Raiders are banged up and missing bodies. Of that, there is no doubt. Josh Jacobs didn't play Sunday and neither did right tackle Trent Brown. Starting safeties Johnathan Abram and Karl Joseph are done for the season. Middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict hasn't been allowed out of the principal's office since a Week 4 hit against the Colts that the NFL deemed a season-ender.
Eventually, it's too much to overcome. It's too much to ask guys who just came in off the street to be meaningful contributors to a playoff run.
But no one wants to hear excuses.
"It comes with the territory," linebacker Tahir Whitehead said of the injuries. "It comes with the game. We've had a lot of adversity this season, but you have to go in there with that next man mentality. No matter what. No one cares what you have to go through during the week. No one cares how many injuries and as much as it matters as far as getting guys ready ... no one gives a s--t."
A once-promising season has been nuked by a non-competitive streak that has seen the Raiders outscored 116-33 and look helpless in the process. The defense has been dissected every way possible and the offense has lacked a punch that would strike fear into any creature with even a faint pulse.
The Raiders might be searching for answers, but they are unlikely to find any that will appease their desperate minds.
There will be no magic elixir to save the Raiders from the disappointing reality of letting a golden playoff opportunity slip away.
Coach Jon Gruden can't scheme the Raiders healthy or make them more talented. They simply are what they are.
But no one wants to hear excuses for laying an egg with the season on the line. That's inexcusable.