Jets-Raiders Key Matchups
The Oakland Raiders have had their rightful place on the mountaintop before. The ‘Silver and Black’ are the only NFL team to have played in Super Bowls in four different decades-1960s (Super Bowl II), 1970s (Super Bowl XI), 1980s (Super Bowls XV and XVIII) and the 2000s (Super Bowl XXXVII)-and have the top all-time win percentage (.550) among original AFL teams. My, how the mighty have fallen.
Today the Jets will get their crack at the 1-4 ‘Silver and Black,’ who suffice to say, aren’t your father’s Raiders. Even though both teams find themselves moving in complete opposite directions, this is one of those ’strength against strength’ matchups. The Raiders’ vaunted running game (4th in NFL, 141 yards per game) will battle the Jets’ equally dominant run defense (3rd in NFL, 69 yards per game). Thus with each team playing to similar strengths, the final outcome will likely come down to multiple matchups.
Raiders’ WR Chaz Schilens and Javon Walker v. Jets’ CB Dwight Lowery and Darrelle Revis: If there’s one area where the Raiders truly struggle, it’s passing the football. JaMarcus Russell possesses one of the strongest arms in football, but through two seasons, it has not translated into many completions. Russell enters this matchup having completed only 50 percent of his passes, with only four of his 134 attempts resulting in touchdowns. If the Jets are able to stop the Raiders’ air attack, they can move more defenders into the box to defend the running game. As effective as running backs Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush have been, it’s difficult to win when you feature a one-dimensional attack.
Raiders’ DT Tommy Kelly and Gerrard Warren v. Jets’ RB Thomas Jones: The Raiders are in the middle of the pack when it comes to stopping the run, having allowed an average of 115 yards per game (18th in NFL). Before last week’s three touchdown outburst, Jones also found himself in the middle of the pack in terms of production. But if Jones can pound the middle of the Oakland defense with his punishing running style, it could be another long afternoon for Al Davis’ bunch. Stopping Brett Favre, Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery will be difficult enough, but if Jones can get into an effective rhythm, the Jets could post points in bunches.
Raiders’ RB Darren McFadden v. Jets’ NT Kris Jenkins: Not enough can be said about McFadden and Jenkins. The Raiders’ explosive running back is one player the Jets’ highly coveted in April’s draft and they know his elusive running style can give any defense fits. Despite battling turf foe, McFadden has averaged 5.1 yards per carry this season. While the straight-ahead running style is difficult enough to stop, the Raiders also line the rookie running back under center in the “wildcat” formation. With Jenkins clogging up the middle of the line, McFadden will surely receive the ball more often in open space.
Raiders’ P Shane Lechler v. Jets’ P Reggie Hodges: This battle surely is not as star-studded as those listed above, but field position will surely play a significant role in today’s outcome. To understand the importance of special teams, look back to the Jets’ Week Two loss to the Patriots. Kicker Steven Gostowski and punter Ken Walter essentially eliminated Leon Washington from the game by booting kicks out of the endzone. If Hodges can pin the Raiders’ young offense deep, the Jets can potentially force some game-breaking turnovers. Likewise, if Lechler, who averages 49 yards per punt (3rd in NFL) can pin Favre and the Jets near their own endzone, the rabid ‘Black Hole’ crowd will sound that much louder.
The ‘Black Hole’ v. Jets: The Raiders’ bunch surely is not your average NFL crowd. Jets’ linebacker Eric Barton put it bluntly this week when he referred to the Oakland crowd as a “spirited group of different individuals.” The ‘Black Hole’ has lost some of its luster with Oakland a measley 1-4 in the standings, but it can still be loud and obnoxious for any opposing player. If the Jets can put up points early, quieting the ‘Black Hole’ will be a quieted, non-factor.
With that said, the Raiders will keep it close by featuring their explosive run offense and several short, high-completion passes, but the Jets are too talented to fall to the ‘Silver and Black.’
Jets 27, Raiders 13