Breaking Down the Jets vs the Raiders
After disposing of the Bengals the Jets now travel to the Black Hole to take on the hated Oakland Raiders, the worst franchise in the NFL since 2003. The Jets will need to avoid looking ahead if they want to take care of business and move 2 games over .500 for the first time since 2006.
Raiders Offense vs. Jets Defense
Oakland is one of the least productive offenses in the NFL, barely scoring 16 points a game despite playing one of the easiest schedules in the NFL from a defensive standpoint. The Raider problems on offense being with the passing game and young quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Russell, in only his second year in the pros, has been slow to adapt to the NFL. No team fears Russell and he gives them no reason to fear him. Russell is wildly erratic when he throws the football, takes too many sacks, and is given less chances than just about any other QB in the NFL to prove himself. His best target is tight end Zach Miller a steady player that has the ability to get a big gainer if he catches the ball in the middle of the playing field. Outside of Miller there is nobody in the receiving corps. worth mentioning. Javon Walker has name value from his days in Green Bay, but hasnít been the same player since those days and fell off a cliff after seeing his friend show in Denver. Ronald Curry, Johnnie Lee Higgins, and Ashley Lelie are a far cry from Larry Fitzgerald, TJ Houshmanzadeh, Chris Chambers, and Randy Moss, the quality of receiver the Jets have played against this season. These guys can go deep down the sidelines, but it is no different than what the Jets saw in week 1 from Ted Ginn, Jr. They have terrible hands and are all poor route runners. The one positive thing the Raiders can do is run the football. It is a three headed attack where they hope to keep a set of fresh legs coming at you all game long. Justin Fargas is coming off his best year as a pro and number 1 draft selection Darren McFadden, the player most Jets fans wanted on draft day, has provided some offense and averages 5 yards a carry in split duty. McFadden is nursing a toe injury and might not play this week. Michael Bush, fully recovered from injury, is also having a nice season for Oakland.
On paper this is an excellent matchup for the Jets defense. All Oakland can do is run the football and thus far the Jets have been excellent at stopping the run. As long as nose tackle Kris Jenkins remains healthy anchoring the middle it gives the Jets linebackers a tremendous amount of freedom to cut the outside lanes off quickly since it is virtually impossible to run up the gut of the Jets defense. Its likely that the Jets will keep an extra safety devoted to the run, whether it be Abram Elam or Eric Smith, to protect against the possibility of a big run by McFadden or one of the other backs. This is basically the same gameplan the Jets saw going against them on offense when starting Kellen Clemens last season. The only way Oakland is going to score points is off a big play. Russell can not convert a third down through the air and its impossible for Fargas, McFadden, and Bush to be able to drive 80 yards with their legs if you hold them to 8 yards here, 5 yards there, and a 2 yard gain somewhere else. As soon as the drive sees that two yard carry, the Raiders are getting their punt unit ready on the sidelines. When Russell drops back the Jets will likely get to him. As is common with young players he holds the ball too long and will get hit by a second wave of pressure caused by no receivers being open. Other times the Jets can probably overwhelm him with the blitz and hope to create a mistake that leads to points for the Jets. All of the Raiders backs and especially Russell are prone to putting the ball on the ground, which is something the Jets have taken advantage of this year. Once the team forces Oakland into a passing mode the only thing to watch for is where Miller is on the field. He could make a play if left open. If the Jets were to allow Oakland over 20 points this week it would be a terrible statement about the Jets defense.
Raiders Defense vs. Jets Offense
Defensively the Raiders are a low rung NFL team. Any offense they have faced with a pulse has found a way to score more than 3 touchdowns on them. The team has talent both at linebacker and in the secondary, but is mediocre up front and is completely gassed by the fourth quarter due to the non-productivity of the offense. The Raiders have been able to stay in games for 3 quarters and then are just wiped out in the 4th. Both Buffalo and San Diego put up huge numbers late to steal games. Oakland will play aggressive which leaves the field open for an occasional big play. The teams best pass rusher, Derrick Burgess, will likely miss this weeks game with an arm injury and he is the only good player in the front four. Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard are both athletically gifted LBs with good speed and good ability to cover the field. CB Nnaamdi Asomugha is one of the better cover corners in the NFL and does a good job of taking his assignment out of every play. Alongside Asomugha is the overrated DeAngelo Hall who takes too many chances which lead to a few interceptions but a few too many receptions. Michael Huff is still trying to find his way in the pros at safety.
The primary objective for the Jets this week has to be to simply protect the football. The Jets can not give a gimme 7 to Oaklandís defense or allow the offense to start with the ball in Jets territory. They will only come away with 3, but you dont want to give away any points on the road. The offensive line will play a big role this week. They allowed Brett Favre to face far too much pressure against a terrible Bengals pass rush and the Bengals saw something they felt they could attack as they blitzed more than they have at any time this year. The Raiders are much better and more aggressive than Cincinnati and if the Jets linemen make Favre feel rushed, heíll make those famous mistakes he has made his entire career. The Jets need to begin to get some type of running game going and if Thomas Jones cant get it working the Jets will likely turn to Jesse Chatman this week. It is not likely to see much of Leon Washington since they need a runner who can pitch in and pick up a blitz, so this may be Chatmanís week to plead his case for carries. Because the Raiders like to take chances it leaves the rest of the field open for a play. If the line picks up a blitz and gives Favre time, any one of his targets could have a huge play. Expect alot of the short slants this week with Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery doing more damage after the catch.
Washington has been phenomenal in the kick return game this season. Oakland is not a team that you need that against, but anytime your return man is giving you field position near midfield you are in a much stronger position. He should get plenty of chances to return punts again this week. Johnnie Lee Higgins has talent in the return game and the Jets have to play as well as they did last week to limit that. Again Oakland is only going to score offensively off great field position from turnovers or kick returns. The Jets made that an important facet of the game against the Bengals and must make it as important here. Wallace Wright looks to be the guy that will lead the special teams unit in keeping Higgins at bay.
What more can be said about the Raiders coaching that hasnít been said already? The players liked the young Lane Kiffin, played hard for him, and felt bad to see him go. Publicly players said they didnít understand it and former Raiders went so far as to say the Raiders are shot. They had two weeks to prepare for a game with their new coach and they completely gave up. Thatís a terrible sign. Owner Al Davis runs the team and if he wants to see JaMarcus Russell heave the ball 40 times a game, each going 80 yards in the air the new coach will call that play 40 times. Coach Tom Cable tried that strategy last week and it was a disaster. He claims he will cut back, but that was likely before the meeting with Davis. Davis will likely try to rally his team around his own personal dislike for the Jets, but it is hard to rally a group of troops that want to commit mutiny on the captain.
It is hard to picture the Jets losing to a team like the Raiders. Even if they overlooked Oakland they are such a better team on paper they should still win the game. There is so little cohesion in the Oakland team they have nothing to rely on in crunch time. You canít win in the NFL when you can not play in the 4th quarter and right now the Raiders are a 3 quarters or less team. The Raiders only chance this week is to jump out early forcing the Jets into mistakes and then try to hang on as the game runs out.
For the Jets, Eric Mangini has to make certain his team doesnít take the Oakland game for granted and start peeking ahead. Already the questions are slowly beginning about November 2nd in Buffalo, especially with the Dolphins falling to 2-3 and the Patriots getting blown out for the 2nd time in 3 weeks, and its human nature to overlook a team like Oakland that is the laughingstock of the NFL. When you make these big trips out West you have to take control of the game early and escape with a win. Having traveled out to San Diego should help the team. The Jets grabbed the early score in that one, but gave it right back and made a fatal error with an onside kick attempt that effectively ended the game. The longer you keep that ridiculous looking ďRaider NationĒ into the game the harder the game is to win. The Raider team doesnít look like it has much heart and that is something to capitalize on. In the two games where teams jumped all over them at the start, Oakland quit, losing by a combined score of 75-17. In the games where Oakland has been allowed to jump in front, the games have gone right down to the last play. You do not want to be in a spot where you need to make a play to win a game with less than 1 minute remaining when you are over 2,000 miles away from home no matter who the opponent may be.
The Jets played somewhat sloppy last week and hopefully have put that behind them and are ready to take off. A good team will take care of business in Oakland without too many problems. Weíll find out more about just how good of a team the Jets are by 7:30 PM on Sunday. Jets jump out early and do not look back.
Jets 34 Raiders 18