HENDERSON. Nev. -- For the Las Vegas Raiders it's win, and they're in.
The most simple and straightforward way in a season filled with uncertainty and adversity to get to the playoffs is for Las Vegas to beat the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox) and then the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium in the finale. That happens, and the Raiders are in the postseason for just the second time since 2002.
After Jon Gruden's emails and resignation. With receiver Henry Ruggs III's high-speed crash and the resulting death of a 23-year-old woman and her dog. In the wake of cornerback Damon Arnette being cut following video of him brandishing guns and making death threats. With COVID-19 enveloping the team after a trip to Cleveland. And with Tuesday's death of John Madden freshly seared into their consciences.
Win, and they're in.
The Raiders, who started 3-0 and 5-2 before losing five of six to fall to 6-7, have won two straight thrillers at the Cleveland Browns and against the Denver Broncos to improve to 8-7 and control their destiny.
Again, wild times.
Through it all, interim coach Rich Bisaccia, promoted from special teams coordinator upon Gruden's resignation on Oct. 11, has preached a mantra of one play at a time, one game at a time, one week at a time. And the micro view has helped the Raiders keep focus.
"I think our players have bought into that," Bisaccia said. "We really just have one game; we have to get ready for the Colts. Obviously, we have to go on the road and prepare to play the game in a hostile environment against a really good football team. So our thoughts right now are about what's next.
"We'll be excited about the opportunity to play the Colts and that's really all we are going to think about right now."
The Raiders beat a Browns team playing its third-string quarterback (Nick Mullens) while Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum were on the COVID-19 list. Then they beat a Broncos team against its backup QB, Drew Lock, because of an injury to starter Teddy Bridgewater.
Now, the Raiders might be facing another backup in rookie Sam Ehlinger, with unvaccinated quarterback Carson Wentz among nine Colts on the COVID-19 list on Wednesday. But with the fluid nature of the NFL's protocols regarding vaccinated and unvaccinated players, his status is in limbo.
And the Raiders, who have long maintained a 100% vaccination rate, have their own issues with the virus. Consider: When they woke up in Cleveland on Dec. 20, they had zero players on the list, and only two had been on it all season. Now they have 13, including 11 on the active roster. Among those are key defensive players in linebackers Denzel Perryman, K.J. Wright and Cory Littleton and cornerback Casey Hayward Jr., along with starting receiver Bryan Edwards, backup quarterback Marcus Mariota and tight end Darren Waller (though he has not played since suffering knee and back injuries on Thanksgiving).
"Emotionally, I think we've been through everything, for sure," said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. "Physically, this has been one of the more demanding years, for whatever reason, on top of everything. For myself. I have a lot of questions sometimes that I won't get answers to -- like, why certain things have to happen, or why I have to feel this way at some point?
"At the end of the day, like we always talk about, nobody cares."
So how did the Raiders get here, and how do they keep themselves from looking ahead to a potential playoff eliminator with the Chargers in the finale?
For one, the Raiders have not blinked in walk-off situations, going 4-0 against the Baltimore Ravens (33-27), Miami Dolphins (31-28), Dallas Cowboys (36-33) and Browns (16-14) -- with the Ravens, Dolphins and Cowboys wins coming in overtime -- while handling their business against the Pittsburgh Steelers (26-17), Philadelphia Eagles (33-22) and Broncos twice (34-24 and 17-13).
Against the Broncos last weekend, the Raiders won a game in which they were minus-3 in turnover differential for just the second time in their past 15 seasons.
Running back Josh Jacobs, in a season-long slump, ran with anger and purpose behind a more efficient offensive line and, with 129 yards, eclipsed the century mark for the first time this season, with a season-high 67 yards coming before contact.
Plus, Carr is third in the NFL with a career-best 4,363 yards passing but is also leading QBs with five lost fumbles, while the 35 sacks he has taken are the second most of his career, as are his 12 interceptions.
Then there have been the fold jobs against the Chicago Bears (20-9), two days after of Gruden's email controversy came to light, at the New York Giants (23-16) coming out of the bye and Ruggs' crash, and against Washington (17-15), with familiar face Jack Del Rio flummoxing Carr.
And that's not counting the embarrassments against the Kansas City Chiefs, who have outscored the Raiders by a combined 89-23 in their two wins.
And while it might feel like a lifetime ago when the Raiders lost their first game on a stormy Monday night in Inglewood, California, to the Chargers, remember when the biggest controversy surrounding the Raiders was Joey Bosa essentially challenging Carr's manhood after Los Angeles' 28-14 win?
A lot has happened since then. And a lot still can.
"The fact of the matter is we have two football games left against two really good football teams and we need to win them," Carr said. "And if we do, we can get in. I think that would be pretty remarkable. I think it would be pretty amazing. But it falls into line with what our goals were at the beginning of the year.
"And despite all the adversity, to be able to still stare your goals in the face and have an opportunity to attain them, it's pretty cool. Not going to lie."
No reason to.