Life would be much easier if we hibernated in between football seasons. This offseason dragged more than a viewing of the full-length uncut Apocalypse Now while on horse tranquilizers. Every bit of Jets or football-related news was like a drop of water in the middle of a vast, arid, football-less desert.
But rejoice, GGN faithful! The NFL season is finally upon us, and the Jets get one of what should be their easiest games to start out the season. The New York Jets take the field this Sunday against a widely panned franchise with struggles of their own who happen to be starting a rookie quarterback - the Oakland Raiders.
Where Each Team Is
The New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders both missed out on the AFC playoff race in the 2013-14 season. By Dangerfield standards, neither of them get much respect. The Jets finished the 2013 season with an even record of 8-8 while the Raiders finished at 4-12.
Both teams were rush-first franchises in 2013, with below average to depressing production in all aspects of the game except for attacking with and defending against the rush. In every other category the Jets and the Raiders were a below average team. To the Jets credit, they just barely fell out of the top ten overall defenses by the end of the season.
The Jets have tweaked the offense with the additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson. Michael Vick serves as capable insurance in case Geno Smith fails, is injured, or even requires a break in a meaningless game. The defense of the Jets is a little more suspect, with injuries to Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle as well as the departure of Antonio Cromartie via free agency. Potential solution Dimitri Patterson didn't pan out. Newcomers Calvin Pryor, Jace Amaro, and Jalen Saunders will try to make an impact in their first year.
The Raiders were not quiet this offseason. They signed CB Carlos Rogers away from the San Francisco 49ers. The Raiders also added Charles Woodson and Pat Sims in an attempt to improve the defense. Maurice Jones-Drew looks to lead a Raiders RB committee. Oakland also traded for Matt Schaub, who is officially now a backup QB. Notable Oakland draft picks include OLB Khalil Mack, QB Derek Carr, CB Keith McGill, and DL Justin Ellis.
Sister Site: Silver And Black Pride
Location: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ.
Field: Open air, artificial turf.
Coverage: CBS. America's number one choice for rapidly cancelled sitcoms.
Weather: Partly sunny, high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Record: Oakland leads the all time series, 23-18-2. (Due to a long complicated history between the teams, 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 as well as the associated press.)
What happened last time? Jets beat the Raiders by 10 with a score of 37-27 on December 8th, 2013.
Who is favored? Jets from 1.5 - 3 points depending on the bookie.
(Players designated "Probable" status are omitted)
Out: Josh Bush (S) Quad, Ikemefuna Enemkpali (DE) Foot, Dee Milliner (CB) Ankle.
Out: Chimdi Chekwa (CB) Knee.
Questionable: Nick Roach (LB) Concussion.
I can't possibly give you the Jets averages and rankings for 2014 as they haven't played yet. If I did post the 2014 NFL rankings, you really wouldn't like them unless you're a Seattle Seahawks fan.
Jets: In 2013 the Jets were 29th in points(18.1), 25th in average overall yards, 31st in the air and 6th on the ground. The Jets rebounded to be one of the top rushing teams but were next to worse at passing the ball. The hope is that Geno Smith can turn a corner and make strides in his second season.
On defense the Jets finished 19th in points allowed, 11th in overall yards allowed, 22nd against the pass and 3rd against the run. The Jets visibly struggled against the pass which offset their success on run defense in terms of averages. The consistently league-low yardage rankings against the rush for all of the 2013 season was due in no small part to the presence of Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Damon Harrison up front. The unit performed overall above average under Dennis Thurman, but the secondary was visibly weak.
Raiders: In 2013 the Raiders were slightly better overall than the Jets offense on average, and significantly worse on defense. By the end of the season the Raiders were 24th in points scored, 23rd in overall yardage, tied for 24th in passing yards and 12th in rushing yards. Like the Jets, the Raiders entire strength on offense was through the rush.
On defense, the Raiders were a pretty lousy unit, much worse than the 2013-14 New York Jets. The Raiders finished the 2103 season 29th in points allowed, 22nd in overall yards allowed, 28th against the pass and 13th against the rush. Geno Smith demonstrated an ability to exploit below-average secondaries throughout 2013, and I expect him to locate and exploit mismatches even with the Raiders infusion of talent in the secondary through free agency and the draft.
AP Pro ranking has the Jets ranked 19 and the Raiders ranked dead last at 32.
Expect both teams to improve from last season while still exhibiting growing pains throughout the year.
Attacking the Raiders
Last season the Raiders true weakness was against the pass, while they finished the year more of a mediocre (although somewhat above-average) running defense. Geno Smith was able to exploit the Raiders struggling secondary and deliver a critical win late in the season. Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers will likely be starting on the outside. In extra receiver sets Geno can give looks to guys being covered by the likes of rookies T.J. Carrie and Keith McGill.
In light of the improvements to the Raiders secondary, the Jets should batter the Raiders front seven with backs Chris Johnson, Chris Ivory, and Bilal Powell who all have demonstrated competence at the position this preseason. If the Jets can make sizable gains on early downs and keep the Raiders honest, the Carr-led Raiders might have trouble keeping pace.
On defense the most obvious X-Factor for the Jets is Antonio Allen subbing in the starting cornerback role in the absence of Dee Milliner, who is out nursing a high ankle sprain, an injury well known to linger for weeks to months. How Allen responds against the likes of James Jones, Rod Streater or the rest of the Raiders receiving corps can be the difference in the games result. The same goes for the likes of Darrin Walls and Kyle Wilson. 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 for the Jets, Jeremy Kerley will be the key to exploiting the Raiders through the air. Eric Decker will be the focus of a revamped secondary as well as a retooled safety look. David Nelson and Greg Salas are sure to get some looks, but the true mismatch will be the Jets 2013 leading receiver Kerley going up against rookie T.J. Carrie who has been named the nickel CB. Kerley has made quick work of better, more experienced secondaries.
A Random Fact I liked too much to omit even though I'm not doing random facts this year: The surname of backup QB Matt McGloin auto-corrects to "much loin" on my phone.
Raiders to Watch
The most obvious choice is rookie quarterback Derek Carr, who performed very capably behind center for the Oakland Raiders in the preseason against the Seattle Seahawks backups. Should Carr falter, Matt Schaub stands ready to relieve him, but the former Texans passer has had such a rapid decline from what was not really a standout career to begin with that I would think the Jets would make easy work of him.
The Raiders have a similar three-pronged rushing attack to the Jets featuring an aging stud back, a dynamic runner fighting an injury bug for a comeback, and...Other Guy. Maurice Jones-Drew isn't what he used to be, so expect to see a healthy amount of Darren McFadden as well. The Jets typically contain rushing attacks very well, so don't be shocked if you see the young Carr dropping back for countless pass attempts when the rushing attack fails.
Bro's Bottom Line
I said this last year:
"The Raiders and the Jets are two very similar teams in terms of strengths, weaknesses, record, and playoff potential."
Although that is still true, the Jets were a better overall team by far last year and they will continue to be such no matter how much they struggle this season. Both teams made significant strides through free agency and the draft, but the Jets were more playoff ready before during and after the offseason. It seems since the pinnacle of their success, both teams have been floundering for some time. Most analysts would agree, however, that the Jets are much more likely to see a run at the postseason.
Both Geno Smith and the Jets secondary have the opportunity to make a statement by delivering against the bottom-ranked Raiders, who tend to get even less respect than the Jets. If Smith can distribute the ball evenly enough to open up a Decker connection, the Jets may very well run away with the game. This would give Smith invaluable confidence as he faces better teams in offensive shootouts over the coming weeks. If the secondary can hold the fort with a recently converted safety in the #1 slot against an improved Raiders corps, it will make their task of fighting off top ranked passers until Dee Milliner returns not seem so daunting.
The Jets will knock out the run and bring pressure early and often. This game will come down to Smith versus Carr, and I like those chances.
Thanks for reading, welcome back, and here's to another year of Jets football!
J!-E!-T!-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!!!
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