When the league set the schedule this year, I doubt they expected much interest in this game. Coming into week 1, the Jets and Raiders were ranked 21st and 26th respectively in the NFL's power rankings. They held the 6th and 4th picks in the previous draft and neither can claim a winning record in the last 4 years. Suddenly, this looks like a game. The Jets sit at 4-2 after an impressive start to the season. The Raiders are coming off a blowout win against Phillip Rivers and remain in the thick of the playoff hunt at 3-3. Both teams have gained league respect, with the Jets and Raiders raising to 7th and 15th in the updated rankings. I don't put a lot of stock in power rankings, but I think they do a good job of showing just how far both of these teams have come. Let me put it like this: In just 6 games, both teams have matched their win totals from the 2014 season.
Where We Are
Last week hurt. It was a hard fought match between two very good teams, and in the end, the Jets couldn't stop Satan...I mean Brady. On the bright side, it was a loss to a strong team on the road and the Jets still sit at 4-2 and are completely in charge of their destiny. I think most fans would have been thrilled to have the Jets at 4-2 after 7 weeks, but it's easy to forget how well the season has been going after a loss. The Jets are in a very strong position. I do think that this is a very important game for the Jets, however. Looking at the playoff picture, there are only 3 teams with records of .500 or above in the AFC that don't sit atop their division. The Jets and Raiders are both on that list.
Where They Are
Raiders fans probably didn't have very high expectations coming into this season. Can you remember the last time the Raiders had a winning season? Here are some events that happened in that year: President George W. Bush gave his first public speech since entering office. The hit reality TV show American Idol aired its first season, slowly rotting the minds of citizens nationwide. The Raider's top receiver for the season was Jerry Rice. Have you figured it out yet? The answer was 2002. Do you know what the Raiders' record looks like since that Superbowl appearance? I did the math, and it's 59-139. It's a 13-year history of futility that makes the Jets look like a model franchise. Things have changed, though. The jury is still out on Derek Carr, but he looks like a quality starter already. Amari Cooper is going to be a monster. Khalil Mack already is one. There are some legitimate, young studs on this roster and the team is only going to get better. They might not be ready yet this season, but at 3-3 thus far, a wild card birth is well within the realm of possibility.
Injuries (Friday practice and game statuses not yet listed)
|Quigley, Ryan||P||Right Shin||FP||FP|
Last week, Fitzpatrick had the best game of his Jets career. It was far from a perfect outing, but the passing game kept the Jets in the game while the running game stuttered. With Ivory playing at about 50%, the Jets' offensive line was exposed. If Ivory isn't healthy, the Jets won't be able to do much on the ground. Fitzpatrick managed to carry the load pretty well against some weak New England corners. The Jets may rely on Fitzpatrick to do it again this week against the NFL's worst passing defense, which is allowing over 300 yards per game through the air. If Ivory needs to rest up, it couldn't have come at a better time. Fitzpatrick should be able to have his way and is the clear choice for my X-Factor this week. It's never been a better time to be a gunslinger.
Most weeks I would choose Amari Cooper, but it looks like he's going to miss the game this week because he's taking a trip to Revis Island. Instead, I'm going with Khalil Mack. I love Mack's motor and relentlessness, and I think he can be something special in this league. Mack is going to require a lot of extra attention. I shudder to think about Brick and Breno trying to slow Mack on the edges without help from tight ends and running backs. With the NFL's worst pass defense behind him, Mack is going to need to take over the game himself. The Jets have done a great job of avoiding sacks, but it hasn't been due to exceptional play. Mack will have a great opportunity to finally turn some of those hits and pressures into sacks this week. If the Raiders want to win this week, he'll need to do it.
Keys To Victory
Outscore the Raiders. Fine, fine, I guess the keys to victory this week are stopping Amari Cooper passing the ball efficiently. With Ivory's ability to play in question, the running game will likely struggle. Meanwhile, the Jets rank a respectable 16th in passing offense while the Raiders rank a less respectable 32nd in passing defense (I may have mentioned this above.) There's never been a better time to throw the ball. On defense, the Jets really just need to shut down Amari Cooper. The offense seems to run through Cooper almost entirely. The running game has been pretty mediocre, with Murray not quite living up to the hype that surrounded him coming into the season. The Raiders sit at 23rd overall in rushing and have only 3 rushing touchdowns through 6 games. The offseason addition of Helu Jr. has provided very little in terms of yardage, with Helu on compiling 68 total yards from scrimmage thus far. If the Jets can shut down Amari Cooper, Oakland's offense will likely fall apart.
The Bottom Line
Both of these teams were typically written off as an easy win by other teams early in the year. Neither team is going to be taken lightly at this point. The Jets sit at 4-2 and gave the Patriots everything they could handle at home. The Raiders sit at 3-3 and demolished a highly touted Chargers team that never stood a chance. Just looking at the rosters, the Jets are clearly the more talented team. The Raiders are a couple of years away from serious contention, while the Jets have a veteran-laden team that is ready for the playoffs. The Jets should win this game, but it won't be the freebie game that a lot of people might have expected a few months ago. Look for the Jets to start the game off a bit flat, but dominate the second half and win by 7 or more points.