Another Sunday, and another game against a team struggling to make anything work. The 3-2 New York Jets will be traveling to Oakland to face the 1-4 Raiders.
It’s always easy for fans to dismiss a team during an unfortunate season. It’s always dangerous, too. But at this point, it’s even more difficult to be too afraid of the Oakland Raiders.
The team is still looking for ways to put it all together, and the drama going on behind the scenes so early in the season has to be staggering their growth.
It’s difficult to build when there’s so much instability.
Looking to capitalize on the turmoil brewing in Oakland, the Jets will be flying into the black hole with hopes of extending their two-game win streak. But when the game starts, all of the distractions fade away.
After a humiliating loss in New Orleans, the Raiders should be looking to rebound.
Rays of light in the black hole
For all of the misery, there is one thing the Oakland Raiders do very well. Running the ball has come easy for the silver and black this season.
The running back committee in Oakland is the fourth best in the NFL, averaging 141 yards per game. Michael Bush, rumored to have been on the trade block as the deadline approached, has been a solid contributor.
Bush is at his best when he can complement a faster running back. He posted his best numbers of the season when Darren McFadden ran wild against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week Two.
McFadden was off to an excellent start in his first few weeks of professional action. He’s averaging 5.1-yards per carry, an impressive statistic that’s actually been stifled by a nagging turf-toe injury.
No longer limited in practice, McFadden appears primed to pick up where he left off against the Chiefs. Oakland is winless since rolling over Kansas City, and the hope is a healthy McFadden can change that.
Unfortunately for Darren McFadden and friends, the New York Jets are not the Kansas City Chiefs.
Unstoppable force meets an immovable object
The Raiders running game has yet to be challenged by an efficient run-stopping defense. The best team the Raiders have faced against the run has been the 14th-overall Saints—a game that ended with a 31-point margin of defeat.
The Jets’ defense, led by nose tackle Kris Jenkins, has been vicious at the point of attack. Ranking third in the NFL against the run, the entire unit has been very stingy against any attempts at a ground game.
The men in green storm the line of scrimmage hard and often, stomping all over any dreams of positive yardage quickly and aggressively.
The only weakness in the Jets’ front is also their strength.
The entire defensive unit plays much better when Kris Jenkins is on the field. At 360-pounds, he’s been the run-stuffing presence the linebackers have needed to rush the pass, and shed blocks.
When Jenkins is not on the field, the men who rotate into his position aren’t as efficient.
The Jets’ would be first in the league at stopping the run had Jenkins not been injured early against the San Diego Chargers. When he was sidelined, the middle of the field opened up for San Diego to control the clock and move the chains.
Raiders a paper product?
Print out the Oakland Raiders roster and challenge yourself to find a reason why this team can’t be 3-2 instead of 1-4.
Their defense may be over-priced, but they’re not under-talented.
Oakland returned a lot of the names and faces that made them a competitive force in previous seasons. The new names on the team are all improvements, so one has to believe that the only things needed in Oakland are experience and chemistry.
Offensively, the Raiders will become an all-around team as soon as JaMarcus Russell finds his comfort zone. He has the tools to become a very good quarterback. But patience is key when it comes to his development.
Fans have to wonder if the distractions are influencing their on-field performances. The lack of stability has to take a toll on a young team in desperate need of leadership.
It doesn’t help a young, struggling quarterback to hear the owner of his team holding press conferences and discussing how much his old coach didn’t want him.
How much damage control has Tom Cable been able to do over the last three weeks?
Jets can’t afford to get conservative
Through their last two victories, one thing has been consistent with the Jets—they call off the dogs when they’re ahead.
Actually, that’s unfair. It has been their identity for a while, and it’s something they should be looking to correct in hostile territory.
The offense can’t settle for three-and-out drives, and the defense can’t stop applying pressure if it becomes a two-score game.
If Oakland falls behind and begins to look hopeless, the Jets can’t allow them to spark up the intensity that could change the momentum. There is enough speed and individual talent on the Oakland defense to score points, and a healthy Darren McFadden deserves proper respect for all four quarters.
Oakland is a dangerous team in desperate need of a win for their new coach, and for their personal pride.
With fans and analysts looking ahead on the Jets’ schedule—licking their chops at the potential of being 5-2 before the Buffalo Bills game—the possibility of an upset can close in very quickly on Gang Green.