Jon Gruden's Las Vegas Raiders sure looked like a contender in a close loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11.
The problem in Week 12, though, was it appeared as if the Raiders left their contending secrets in the desert. The Atlanta Falcons obliterated the Raiders 43-6, forcing five turnovers and needing to go more than 50 yards on a scoring drive just twice all afternoon.
Being the head coach, Gruden had to watch the tape back. He'd have preferred anesthesia.
"You ever go to the dentist and have to have your teeth pulled out? It's pretty much like that," Gruden said Monday, via the Associated Press. "This was tough, man.
"Fourth-and-1 we have the ball, we go for it, we get rejected. Next possession, first down, we take a shot with an aggressive play-action protection, sack-strip fumble. Right before the half, we're going in for points, sack-strip fumble. Early in the third quarter, we're in great field position, interception for a touchdown. We force a kicker to miss a field goal, we rough the kicker and they end up getting seven (points) out of that.
"There wasn't anything pleasant about watching the tape."
Gruden just about covered the majority of Las Vegas' mistakes, which produced a takeaway total (five) that was half of Las Vegas' combined total (10) in Weeks 1-11. The miscues clumped together to create an ugly mass of an outing that's best left in the trash, never to see the light of day again.
The Raiders will have to hope that ends up being the case, because at 6-5, they're going to need to get hot quickly if they want to make the playoffs in an incredibly competitive AFC. Las Vegas will have to fight through a pack that includes Cleveland (8-3), Miami (7-4), Indianapolis (7-4), Baltimore (6-4 with Wednesday's game to be played), and New England (5-6). With only three wild-card spots available, a few of those teams will have to spend their January at home. Time is of the essence.
"I'm not going to worry about anything down the road except the Jets," Gruden said, mentioning his team's Week 13 opponent. "If you watch the Jets play yesterday, they're a handful. They are going to be hard to move the ball on. ... This will be a fist fight, no doubt about it. I got a lot of respect for the way the Jets are competing."
The Jets are winless, but aren't a fully formed doormat. They are the ideal opponent to face when in need of a bounce-back win. We'll see who's pulling teeth on Monday.