Breaking Down the Jets vs the Raiders
One has to wonder if the Oakland Raiders hit their low point two weeks ago after a drubbing in New York at the hands of the Giants and are on the upswing. That may have been the most miserable point a franchise has ever been at in professional sports. Their head coach looked like he could be criminally charged with assault at any day. The team obviously whiffed on their choice at QB. Players within the organization have called the team and the franchise a joke. Just last week an opposing player, Antonio Pierce of the New York Giants, said that facing them felt like playing a scrimmage because they play with no heart or conviction. Somehow the Raiders seems to put that all behind them and defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in what will likely be one of the biggest upsets of the season. Now they get their chance to win two in a row and try to turn their season completely around against the reeling, and hated, Jets.
Jets Defense vs. Raiders Offense
The Oakland offense is just horrendous, averaging 13 points a game at home and under 6 on the road. QB JaMarcus Russell is not just the worst QB in the NFL, but may be the worst player to be given a starting job of more than a game or two in the last 30 years. Russell has been accused of not caring and being content due to a ridiculous 50 million dollar guarantee he received from Oakland in 2007. He is the most inaccurate QB by a wide margin, only completing 46% of his passes for a sad 5.6 YPA. The team has no confidence in Russell and tries to limit how often he passes and where he passes to due to his propensity to throw the ball to the other team, though he is coming off perhaps his best game as a pro. He is maybe good for one 20 yard completion per game. His favorite target is TE Zach Miller who has to feel his skills are wasted in this offense. Miller has good hands and is an excellent athlete who is hard to bring down after the catch. He annihilated the blitzing Eagles last week. Louis Murphy is a taller receiver with good speed that caught the league by surprise in week 1, but has been below average for a starter since then. He has been far better than fellow rookie WR Darius Heyward Bey who has two receptions on the season. The impressive running attack of a year ago no longer exists. Neither Michael Bush nor Justin Fargas can get anywhere. With a poor offensive line in front of them and no threat in the passing game they simply have no room to run and are swarmed at the line of scrimmage. Bush has been getting the majority of carries though Fargas will likely see more of a role after a good game last week. The Raiders line is having a bad season. They are hoping to get something out of Langston Walker, who has not been good in forever, at right tackle and hoping to get a boost at guard with the return of Robert Gallery. Gallery never learned to play tackle but has done well in his transition to being an interior linemen. He could help the run game, though it is unlikely that he plays this week.
This week will be a big physical and mental challenge for the Jets who lost NT Kris Jenkins for the season. Jenkins is clearly the only dominant linemen the team has and the teams defensive woes when he does not play are well documented. The Jets have been incredibly soft up the middle without Jenkins and Rex Ryan will need to get creative this week to replace Jenkins. When Jenkins was on the bench against Miami players such as Howard Green and Sione Pouha, who will now be prime contributors, were just overwhelmed. Last week Ryan even tried LB Vernon Gholston at the nose since he is at least strong enough to push players back, something the other players do not seem to be. Even with Jenkins missing most of the game last week, the Jets had their best showing since week 1 at stopping the run. Their defensive ends both played better and the LBs showed more intensity than usual. It seemed clear that this was something they worked on after the Miami game, but they will need to prove they can do it for 60 minutes without Jenkins. The Jets have to get more out of Calvin Pace and Bart Scott this week. Pace showed a flash or two against Buffalo, but he is struggling to get up to speed. Scott is making too many mistakes on the field and looks to be playing out of anger rather than playing with smarts. This can not happen against a team with a player like Miller at tight end. The Jets secondary would look to get a break this week, but the last time they thought they had a break they got lit up by Chad Henne of the Dolphins. Miscommunication among the players has led to two big passing scores the last two weeks and the Raiders proved they can hit a big pass play last week if there is a breakdown on defense.
The big question is whether or not the Raiders are willing to allow Russell to try to throw the football. Last week they exploited an Eagles blitzing attack by dumping the ball off to their fullback and hitting Miller against a small secondary. For as much flack as Tom Cable gets he is a good line coach and he understands pickup of blitz packages. If they are going to throw the ball the Jets need to generate their pass rush with 4 or 5 players, something they have not been able to do all season. The Raiders don’t have the greatest physical talent on the line and you should be able to pressure Russell with a one on one rush. That said the Jets have faced a number of poor linemen these past three games and gotten no rush. By flooding the secondary they have enough hands to pick off the errant pass and enough bodies to take down a receiver once he catches the ball. This is the kind of game where Kerry Rhodes has to be able to fool the QB into a mistake. Rhodes has yet to intercept a ball this season and Russell has been picked off twice by safeties this year. Covering Miller and the runners will be a key for the game. Scott has to play smarter this week. Too often he is breaking off coverage when he sees a shot to take at someone and the ball ends up getting dumped over his head. Oakland’s run game is going to target the middle of the line and David Harris will likely be the main guy to stop the run. His linemen are going to have to at least hold their ground and allow him to make a play. If they get pushed back it will be tough for Harris to take his shots. If the Jets stop the run it will be hard for the Raiders to play one dimensional football and score enough points to win.
Jets Offense vs. Raiders Defense
There is talent on the Oakland defense. They have one of the two best cornerbacks in the NFL in Nnamdi Asomugha, who rarely gets tested by the opposing QB. He was poked in the eye last week but should play with no issues against the Jets. Former Patriot Richard Seymour, who has had little good to say about Oakland since arriving, lines up at DE and Jets fans know what a terror he can be. Greg Ellis who has on numerous time expressed his displeasure with the team is a decent veteran force, though he is battling knee injuries. Trevor Scott has the ability to rush the passer on 3rd downs as an end. LB Kirk Morrison is extremely productive providing excellent run support and Thomas Howard is solid in coverage. Nobody hears about these guys because they play on a bad team, but they are two of the more talented linebackers in the NFL today. Both have good speed and strength and if Oakland chooses to allow them to blitz they can disrupt the flow of the game. Oakland’s weak spot is straight up the gut of their line where Tommy Kelly and Gerard Warren are below average. The Raiders completely changed up their defensive attack last week and it produced great results which left the Eagles players scratching their heads and realizing they were unprepared for the scheme. Oakland brought a blitz package that allowed their defensive ends a lot more freedom to pressure the QB and did an excellent job by keeping plays in front of the tacklers. The one huge problem Oakland has had this year is giving up the big play. Despite the presence of Asomugha in the secondary they have allowed 7 plays of 40 or more yards almost all in the last 3 games.
Mark Sanchez had perhaps the worst start in the history of the NFL last week. He could not handle the weather or the pressure of the game and melted down as the game went on. Sanchez is at a very dangerous point right now with two awful games in his last three. The Coach admitted to considering the benching of Sanchez against the Bills and Leon Washington, when asked if this continued to be a problem should he be benched, somewhat backed off his support and said that would be a coaches decision. The catcalls already began in the Meadowlands and the extremely premature use of the word “bust” was being thrown around. He needs a steady game in what is something of a trip home for him. Braylon Edwards again showed those flashes of how he can be a dominant WR for this team, but the Jets really need Jerricho Cotchery to be healthy this week. Not only is he significantly better than David Clowney and Wallace Wright, but he is the only WR on the team that has developed chemistry with Sanchez. It’s no surprise that the one game without Cotch as Sanchez’ safety blanket was the worst game he has played. After showing a glimmer of life in Miami, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington had one of the great running games a team will ever have albeit in a losing effort. Washington looked very elusive when he had the ball in his hands and Jones seemed to be running much stronger than usual. They will have to have a huge game this week against a weaker run defense. The key to the game may be the play of the Jets offensive line. The line has been very inconsistent in all phases of the game and they can not allow their young QB to get flustered the way he has these last few weeks. Alan Faneca has missed a few key blocks and as a whole they are doing a bad job in blitz recognition. If they do not play well this week it could be a long Sunday.
Ryan has more or less come out and admitted they have thrown too much on Sanchez too soon. Last week they continued to ask him to make throws he could not make rather than playing it a bit safer and it likely cost them the football game. Like any rookie, if you give them too many options in one play they often think they can do it all with their arm and end up making big mistakes. People sometimes forget that in college these players did not have to run efficient pass plays, instead having great talent that got wide open down the field for big gains. Sometimes you just have to call safe plays for the young QB until they completely figure out the pro game. Having Cotchery back would be huge as he gives them a target in the passing game. With Dustin Keller completely invisible and seemingly using a different playbook than the QB, they need Cotchery more than ever. In a game like this where you cant expect the QB to throw on Asomugha at all, you need a secondary target to allow the passing game to work and keep the defense somewhat honest. If Cotchery can play expect the Jets to consistently switch where he and Edwards line up as Asomugha more often than not plays a side rather than a man. Under no circumstance can they let Sanchez feel like its his responsibility to throw his way back into the fans good graces. That’s another 5 interception game waiting to happen. The main weapons this week have to be Washington and Jones. Both have the potential to break off big runs against this defense and both should be a focus of the passing game. If you catch Oakland in the right package and dump it to Leon in space he’ll pick up huge yardage for his QB. The one positive that the Jets did seem to find last week, and in some ways it was taking a page out of the Dolphins book, was using the 1 WR set for run plays. When they brought in Robert Turner as an extra Tight End the run seemed almost unstoppable. It gave the Jets a big advantage when the Bills put 8 in the box and it also allowed the other blockers to get to the next level a bit better. I’d expect to see more of that look this week, especially if Cotchery is nowhere near 100%.
Special Teams were a disaster last week. Bad punting. A missed field goal. A botched hold. Countless penalties. Awful tackling. No returns. This may have been the worst game the Jets have played on specials in recent memory with breakdowns in every phase of the game. The Jets offense has been effected this year by the lack of return yardage from Washington. While the Jets return the ball well enough they no longer get the big returns out near midfield. With Leon’s increased role in the offense they may want to begin to look elsewhere to see if they can find a big return guy. The Jets are also going to need better play from the punter and coverage units. With the offense in such a funk field position becomes increasingly important. Last year the Jets were hurt by poor punting in the loss against these very Raiders.
Oakland should be a good team for the Jets specials to look better against. They have no threats at all in the return games, ranking dead last in both kick and punt returns. They have terrible kick coverage and do let the return guys get free room to run. Shane Lechler is arguably the best punter in the NFL and will likely force the Jets to work on a long field. K Sebastian Janikowski is perfect this season on field goals and can hit them consistently from far out.
Tom Cable’s problems are well documented, but he was able to capture the attention of a team spiraling out of control last week and get them to focus on winning a football game, something the Jets need to do this week. Cable did not do a horrible job in 2008 when he took over for Lane Kiffin, getting some big upset wins, including one against the Jets. Cable knows Oakland owner Al Davis’ feelings about the Jets and that beating New York goes a long way towards earning job security. Oakland has had a hard time putting together back to back winning efforts and Cables primary job will be to keep the players focused on the game at hand rather than celebrating last weeks victory.
Rex Ryan has definitely hit the first stumbling blocks of his career and has said he needs the team to focus simply on one opponent at a time. He challenged the team last week saying the game was a must win, but for the first time this year they did not respond to him and dropped the game. They played totally undisciplined in all three phases of the game and Ryan again made some questionable in game decisions dealing with play selection and clock management. He has put a target on himself with his mouth and seems to have backed off this week in an effort to change the preparation for his team. He has a tough job of reeling in the offense to help his rookie QB and finding a way to cover for the loss of his most impactful defensive player. A loss here could end the hopes Ryan has for the division.
As disappointing as the loss to the Bills was last week, it may have been a good thing for this team. Jenkins admitted that his teammates have a very hard time handling success and the teams track record as a favorite these last 3 years backs his opinion up. Whether they do not take opponents seriously, read too much into their press clippings, or just can not handle pressure the result is that they lose. Those expectations have been lifted, likely for the season. Even though they go into this game as a big road favorite nobody will be surprised if the Jets lay an egg and lose the game.
The Jets are not as bad as they looked last Sunday. The Jets were dwelling on the Monday loss to Miami. Rex Ryan in his postgame interviews days later was annoyed about it and still talking about the Miami game and how they will get back at them when they get them at home. Calvin Pace and Bart Scott were talking about Miami as if they were the next opponent. The Bills were like an afterthought. The game really hurt the Jets mentally and they got caught looking past the Bills and focusing solely on the Miami Dolphins. Listening to interviews this week from the players and coach it is an entirely different mood. They are not happy with a loss to Buffalo but they are not dwelling on it the way they did the prior week. The are not making excuses and putting the blame on anyone but themselves. They seem to realize the key is to make sure they do not take anyone on the schedule for granted and go week by week, something they did not do after the Saints game.
These players realize the trap that is Oakland. They lost there last season when they decided to coast for 55 minutes before remembering there was a game to play and they just watched the Raiders beat up the highly regarded Philadelphia Eagles. They have to realize how hard a stadium this will be for Sanchez and that they have to play much better to help their young QB survive the experience.
This really is a must win for the Jets. They have to get some of their swagger back and need to rid their minds of the “Same Old Jets” talk. The west coast trips were a nightmare for the Jets last season with big losses every time they traveled. If they drop this game its likely their confidence will be shot. The Jets know they are a better team than the Raiders. On paper, Oakland is no better than the Bills and the Jets had to hand that game to Buffalo to lose by three points. For as bad as the Jets played they had enough talent to overcome tons of turnovers and bad decisions and be there at the end of the game where one less penalty would see the Jets sitting here with a 4-2 record.
The game should not be a cakewalk by any means. The Raiders defense is too good for that to happen especially with the Jets having problems scoring points. If the Jets protect the football and don’t let the Raiders get the big play for a score they should have enough to get the momentum of the season back on their side. If they let Sanchez feel the pressure of carrying the team and ask him to throw the ball 35 times, even the most optimistic Jet fans will likely give up on the season. All they need to do is score 17 points and they should win the game. The Raiders simply can not win games where the opponent scores even a small amount of points. In the last season and a half the Raiders have allowed less than 17 in six of their seven wins. Four of those wins saw their opponents score 10 or less. Their record is 1-15 in games where the opponent scores 17 points or more. The Jets have to go into the game with the safe mindset of scoring 17 and not the mindset of having to “prove their manhood” by blowing the team out. If they go in with that second mindset it is a recipe for disaster because smarts go out the window when you press like that. Maybe the blowout comes anyway, but most important is coming back from Oakland 4-3 and right back in the divisional hunt. The Jets will surprise some folks who have completely abandoned ship this week.
Jets 24 Raiders 13