OAKLAND, Calif. - There are times when you can tell more about a team in the wake of a demoralizing loss than an exhilarating win. For the Jets, this is one of those times.
Coming off a 30-23 loss to the Patriots last week, they face another major test when they face the Raiders on the road.
The Raiders aren't in a class with the Patriots. No one is right now. But if you saw the Raiders demolish the Chargers on the road last week (before allowing Philip Rivers to make it at least respectable in garbage time of the second half), you know the Jets have a huge task.
When a team loses a game the way the Jets did last week and then travels across the country to face a young team on the rise and injected with confidence -- then a matchup that might have looked easy on paper before the season now looks mountainous.
Just ask Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, who together with Todd Bowles implemented a game plan that nearly worked against the unbeaten Patriots. Asked what he was thinking when he watched videotape of Derek Carr's offense doing a number on the Chargers, Rodgers said, "Here we go again."
Yes, the Raiders really do look like a different team with a more confident Carr now in his second season. Rookie receiver Amari Cooper has been a revelation, living up to his billing as the top receiver in this year's draft. He might be a once-in-a-generation-type receiver, with prototypical size, speed and, perhaps most importantly, route-running ability.
This is not a dink-and-dunk, take-what-you-give-them offense like the Patriots, whose ability to solve schemes is among the best in NFL history. No, the Raiders still like the vertical game, and the Jets must be mindful of Carr's ability to throw home-run passes, especially to Cooper.
"They're a formidable team," Rodgers said. "They broke big plays in the passing game , they had trouble covering Cooper, and they opened up the running game. All the backs were a factor."
The Raiders once were one of the league's most dominant franchises, but in recent years -- really, in recent decades -- they have been one of the league's biggest flops. They drafted poorly, hired and fired coaches with metronomic regularity and, with rare exception, were abysmal.
But in the last two years, they may have hit on three important positions for a team: quarterback, pass rusher and wide receiver.
Carr was a second-round pick last year, right behind Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who has emerged as one of the league's most dominant pass rushers, and Cooper, who has been the runaway choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
General manager Reggie McKenzie also has rebuilt the offensive line and sprinkled in a handful of veterans throughout the lineup to add depth and experience.
Pulling it all together is Jack Del Rio, the former Broncos defensive coordinator in his second go-round as a head coach after a prior run with the Jaguars.
The Jets (4-2) have been mostly impressive, with Bowles showing a calm but firm hand in leading the excellent getaway. But this game could prove as challenging as trying to vanquish the perennial AFC East champion Patriots, especially because it comes on the heels of such a close loss.
"It's a matter of shaking off that loss and getting ready for that win that next week," Bowles said. "Putting it behind you and understanding that it's a process and getting back to the fundamental things you do well and come out and play better the next week."
Bowles liked what he saw this week from players and coaches in terms of their preparation.
"The head coach has to make sure everybody is fine, so they have to move on, but the assistant coaches know exactly what happened and it stews on them all the time," he said. "You've got to make sure they can put it past them and move on to the next week. I think our guys are doing a good job."
To get to 5-2, they'll have to. Another loss on the road against a quality team and a 4-3 record . . . then here come the doubts.