Where Each Team Is
The New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders are both all-but eliminated from the AFC playoff race, both teams needing to win out and to get significant help from the plethora of teams also contending for the sixth seed. While neither team is throwing in the towel, in fact the Raiders appear to have breathed new life into their team, it's very unlikely at this point that either team is playing for more than pride or draft pick positioning.
Both teams field incredibly inept units on both sides of the ball, sans running offense and defense. The Raiders and Jets alike have kept their seasons alive by staying strong on the ground attack as well as against the run. The Raiders have found new life in the passing game in previous weeks, potentially giving the Jets a serious challenge on Sunday.
The Raiders are severely banged up, missing at least seven and up to nine important players for this game. Running Back and Safety are especially thin for Oakland.
Random Fact: Vinny Testaverde is on the brink of sending lawyers after me.
Smackdad's *real* facts: The Raiders have not had a winning season since they knocked the Jets out of the playoffs in Chad Pennington's magical debut year of 2002.
Sister Site: Silver And Black Pride
Location: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ.
Field: Open air, artificial turf.
Coverage: CBS. Your home for geriatric-friendly programming.
Weather: Cloudy and Cold, highs in the mid-30's.
Record: Oakland leads the all time series, 23-17-2. (Raiders.com, nyjets.com, FOX NEWS, various game capsules and the Washington Post all have slightly varying records. My source was the Jets official web site)
What happened last time? Oakland beat the Jets by a score of 34-24 on September 25, 2011.
Who is favored? According to SBNation, the Jets are favored by 2.5-3.5 points, roughly the difference of a field goal.
(Players designated "Probable" status are omitted)
Questionable: Stephen Hill (WR) Knee. All others expected to play, including Holmes and Kerley.
Random Fact: Oakland and the NY metropolitan area have a centuries-old friendly competition to see who can pump the most sewage into their respective bays.
Smackdad's *real* facts: The Raiders have had 7 winning seasons in the last 28 years, dating back to the days of the old New York Sack Exchange.
Jets: On offense the Jets are 31st in points, 30th in overall yards, 32nd in the air and 10th on the ground. Arguably, the Jets are pound for pound the single worst offensive unit in the entire NFL, with very few bright spots on that unit. Even the rushing attack, which kept the Jets as relevant as they are this far into the year, is gradually sinking and figures to fall out of the top ten rankings at this rate. There is no lack of blame to go around, but Quarterback Geno Smith has become a pariah for the NY metro area as his team has faltered. Smith has delivered back to back bomb performances in an otherwise mediocre-to-disappointing year. The complete lack of threats through the air is equally problematic.
On defense the Jets are a mixed bag, fantastic against the run and in terms of overall yardage allowed, but extremely poor against the pass and at keeping opposing teams out of their end zone. The Jets are 25th in points allowed, 12th in overall yards allowed, 25th against the pass and 1st against the run .The Jets number one ranking on run defense is in part due to the tremendous efforts and performance of the Jets front seven against the run under coach Karl Dunbar. The consistently league-low yardage rankings against the rush are due in no small part to the presence of Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Damon Harrison up front.
Raiders: Like the Jets, the Raiders are a uniformly below average to poor team with a couple of standout positions that have kept their team relevant into the later season. The Raiders are 27th in points scored, 22nd in overall yardage, 28th in passing yards and 5th in rushing yards. The Raiders are almost as uniformly bad on offense as the Jets and their performance is statistically comparable to the Jets, however their running game is both more consistent and productive than the Jets gradually failing offensive efforts.
On defense, the Raiders are also a mixed bag unit, similar to the 2013-14 New York Jets. The Raiders are 21st in points allowed, 19th in overall yards allowed, 23rd against the pass and 10th against the rush. Geno Smith has shown he can exploit bad secondaries in the past, so it is possible the rookie QB could have a bounce back performance. It will be interesting to see how the Raiders and Jets strong suits of attacking with and defending against the run match up against one another.
AP Pro ranking has the Jets ranked 23 (unchanged from last week) and the Raiders ranked 28.
Random Fact: Embattled GGN user NikolaiC probably thinks Terrelle Pryor should start this weekend against the Jets.
Smackdad's *real* facts: The only Raider QB to go to the Pro Bowl in the past 36 years is Rich Gannon, the first since Ken Stabler in 1977.
Attacking the Raiders
The Jets will need to test the Raiders top ten rush defense with Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory. Regardless of how effective (or not) the rush attack is early on in the game, the Jets cannot quit or become one dimensional against the Raiders below average yet underrated defense. The Jets will have to keep pounding the rock throughout the game in order to give Geno Smith some flexibility and to take the pressure off slightly. Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley should be in full swing for the Jets, which could help provide a much needed spark on offense. The only questionable Jet is Stephen Hill, who has been virtually a ghost for the team. Even if Hill cannot go against the Raiders, it's unlikely he'll be missed very much given his level of production.
I hate to keep going back to the secondary, but that is the key to the Jets woes besides their terrible offensive unit. The simple fact of the matter is that if Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner do not perform better against wide receivers than they have so far this year, you simply cannot ask a rookie Quarterback with fledgling options at best to step up and win a game. No passer with the weapons Smith has can keep pace with a team that can move the ball through the air effectively against the Jets weak secondary. The biggest differences from last year are the moving of Dennis Thurman to defensive coordinator and the replacing of Kyle Wilson in the #2 CB slot with Dee Milliner. Both moves need to be thoroughly evaluated, the Jets have gone from a top five pass defense in 2012-13 to a bottom five pass defense in 2013-14.
In this sense, the Jets cornerbacks are not so much X-Factors as they are massive liabilities, but the trajectory of the game and the Jets season depends very heavily on their level of play.
On offense the Jets Jeremy Kerley has the most receptions on the year with 28 despite missing significant time with a nasty elbow injury. Kerley could be instrumental to the Jets offense finding its feet again.
Random Fact: McGloin auto-corrects to "much loin" on my phone.
Raiders to Watch
The most obvious choice is rising star Matt McGloin, who has performed very capably behind center for the Oakland Raiders as they try to see what sticks to the wall at QB this year. McGloin was one interception away from virtually matching the excellent performance of Tony Romo in Oakland's last game against the Dallas Cowboys. McGloin's ability to move the ball and keep the Raiders in the game against the leagues top scoring team is troublesome for a very poor Jets pass defense. Indeed, all of the Raiders passers who have taken snaps at QB this year all have higher completion percentages and QB ratings than all of the Jets Quarterbacks who have played (except for the injured Josh Cribbs, who had a 109.7 rating on 2 passes).
Rashad Jennings has been an absolute beast taking over for McFadden, and a serious red zone scoring threat. However, Jennings suffered a concussion last week and is uncertain for this weeks game. With McFadden and third string RB Jeremy Stewart both out this week, converted cornerback Taiwan Jones could be taking snaps at RB for the Raiders this Sunday.
Bro's Bottom Line
The Raiders and the Jets are two very similar teams in terms of strengths, weaknesses, record, and playoff potential. Unfortunately, the Jets had a freakishly similar opponent to themselves last week in the form of the Miami Dolphins as well, so the Jets might not benefit from facing an enemy with strengths and weaknesses so similar to their own.
Geno Smith has the potential to silence critics and recapture the magic of early on in the year, as his receiving corps will likely be the most complete it has been all year, against a relatively poor Raiders secondary who are missing multiple Safeties due to injury. If Smith does not deliver anything of substance this week and his performances are as bad as against the Ravens and Dolphins, then the Geno project can be ended early. From my armchair, I would use this game as the young mans final big test of 2013. If Smith fails, either shelve him as a developmental backup for the remainder of his career with the Jets or cut him entirely. It's time for Rex to get more proactive, or to fire him and find somebody who will be.
If the Jets can get significant enough pressure in the Raiders backfield and IF Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner play at least serviceable coverage, this is still a winnable game for the Jets who in spite of everything are still in contention in 2013.
J!-E!-T!-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!!!
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