Sure the Raiders hold a disappointing 1-4 record heading into Sunday’s matchup with the New York Jets, but just as Head Coach Eric Mangini preached before last week’s win against the winless Bengals and is again doing so this week, ‘the record does not tell the complete story.’ That’s not to say the Raiders have not been struggling. They no doubt have. They were completely defenseless in a season-opening 41-14 loss to the Broncos and had their head coach, Lane Kiffin, run out of town by Owner Al Davis one month later. In stepped interim Tom Cable, whose presumably short tenure began with a 34-3 loss to the Saints last week. In Wednesday’s conference call with the New York media, Cable was not out to make any friends with his team, suggesting that “too many completions and not enough effort defensively” were reasonings for the blowout loss to New Orleans. In all, it has been a wild five weeks for one of the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchises. But again, as Mangini continues to remind his team, ‘the record does not tell the complete story.’
Outside of the blowout losses to Denver and New Orleans, the Raiders have been quietly competitive. Following a 23-8 victory over the Chiefs in Week Two, the Raiders lost to the Bills 24-23 on a last-second field goal by Rian Lindell. The next week they carried a 15-3 lead into the fourth quarter against the Chargers, but ultimately fell short 28-18. Yes losses are losses, but calling the Raiders a pushover would certainly be a mistake.
Look closer at the statistics and the Raiders certainly can do something affectively on the field…run the ball. Through the air, the Raiders certainly do not compare with the Super Bowl XXXVII team which featured Rich Gannon, Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. Former No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell has completed just 50 percent of his pass attempts, with four touchdowns and a measly 73.2 quarterback rating. Their leading receiver, tight end Zach Miller, has just 14 catches. The Raiders average just 150 yards passing per game, (32. KC 136 yards, 31. Seattle 137 yards) which is good for 30th in the NFL. In short, Oakland will not be lighting up any scoreboards with their air arsenal anytime soon.
Then there is the ground game. The trio of Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush have helped the Raiders average 141 rushing yards per game, good for fourth in the NFL. McFadden, who leads the team with 59 carries for 302 yards (5.1 average) has been featured in the “wildcat” formation, which made its mark loudly in the Dolphins’ Week Two win over the Patriots. Sure the solid run game is not enough to annoint the Raiders as contenders, but Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace knows it makes the Raiders dangerous.
“It will be a great test for us, probably the best test we have had all year,” Pace said. “All the guys are averaging over four yards a carry and that speaks a lot for them so we definitely need to hone in and be able to slow them down.”
Luckily if there is one strength attached to the Jets, it’s their run defense. With Kris Jenkins lined up at nose tackle, the Jets’ run defense has allowed just 69 yards rushing per game, which ranks third in the NFL.
There is no doubt the Jets should leave Oakland Sunday night with a 4-2 record, but labeling this matchup a gimme would be a mistake. Stranger things have happened, especially within the ‘Black Hole.’
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