Today we're going to take a look at a few trends that might come into play in Sunday's game between the Jets and the Raiders. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, or even necessarily the most important trends and matchups to focus on. Rather, it is a highly idiosyncratic look at trends which caught my eye this week and might prove interesting in Sunday's game. Please feel free to supplement this article with any trends you've noticed. Now, let's get to it.
Go East Young Man
The Raiders are making the long trip east across the country. This trip has not been kind to Oakland in the recent past. It is a difficult trip for any West Coast team to manage, but Oakland has proven to be particularly inept in Eastern enclaves. Oakland's last win east of the Mississippi River came almost exactly 4 years ago to the day. On December 6, 2009, the Oakland Raiders defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh by the score of 27-24. Since that game the Raiders have played 14 games east of the Mississippi River, and lost every single one. To add to Oakland's misery, Sunday's game will have a 1:00 p.m. start, meaning the Raiders will be playing at the equivalent of 10:00 a.m. PST. The early morning start for Oakland cannot be in their favor. Time and distance are conspiring against the Silver and Black on Sunday.
Running To Daylight
The Raider's run defense has been very good this year, allowing 103 yards per game, ranking 10th in the NFL. In yards per carry they rank 8th, giving up just 3.9 ypc. Lately, however, a few cracks have shown. Over the first 7 games of the year the Raiders allowed 643 yards rushing on 178 carries, for stingy averages of 91.9 yards per game and 3.6 ypc. That's really good run defense. However, over the last 5 games much more daylight has appeared for opposing offenses. Over the last 5 games the Raiders have allowed 591 yards rushing on 142 carries, for much more generous averages of 118.2 yards per game and 4.2 ypc. If the Jets hope to win this game the later, more generous Raiders run defense will need to show up. Without a run game it is difficult to envision the Jets passing game providing enough offense to win the game. However, if the Jets can manage 120+ yards rushing it should take the pressure off Geno and open up some passing lanes. Here's hoping the Later Raiders are coming to town.
Stephen Hill. The very name is becoming an obscene epithet on the tongues of Jets fans. But as embarrassing as he has been, there is one set of circumstances on Sunday that provides a small ray of hope. Over the short course of Stephen Hill's career, he has played 23 games. Only 7 of those games have been played with both Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley in the lineup. In those 7 games Hill has amassed 18 catches for 322 yards and 3 TDs. Not great, but projected over a full 16 game season those numbers project as 41 catches, 736 yards, 17.8 ypc and 7 TDs. For an extremely raw project WR in his first 2 years in the league with the worst QBs in football throwing the ball, that doesn't sound half bad, right?
Now look at the numbers when one or both of Holmes and Kerley are out of the lineup. In those 16 games, a full NFL season, Hill has 27 catches for 272 yards, 10.1 ypc and 1 TD. Hill completely disappears when he's asked to carry the load as a primary target in the offense. Those numbers without Kerley and/or Holmes are atrocious. But the good news is, Kerley and Holmes are scheduled to be in the lineup together on Sunday for the first time since Week 4. Unfortunately Hill tweaked his knee, so it is unclear whether Hill will be in the lineup with them. But if he is, we might just be pleasantly surprised with some badly needed production out of Hill on Sunday. Given his past history, it would not come as a shock if he caught a deep ball or two and even scored a TD.
Geno's Last Stand
I've written before about how poorly Geno has played against pass defenses ranked in the top half of the league, and how relatively well he has played against bottom half of the league pass defenses. Well, Oakland is a bottom dweller in pass defense, ranking 24th in the league, giving up 254 passing yards per game. That makes Oakland statistically the worst pass defense the Jets will face this year. In prior games against bad pass defenses (the first BUF game, TB, and ATL), Geno has pulled out 3 wins and produced the best three passer ratings of his rookie year. Sunday also represents the first time time since Week 4, and only the 4th game this year, that Smith will have all 5 of his top targets in the passing game on the field: Holmes, Kerley, Hill, Winslow and Cumberland. If ever Geno is going to deliver a decent performance the rest of this year, the stars are aligned for it happening at home on Sunday. Geno just might shock the world and look like a pretty good QB for the first time in what seems like forever against the Raiders. If he doesn't, hope for Geno, at least for this year, is pretty much extinguished.