By Sam McPherson
For the second time this season, the Oakland Raiders will travel to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, but this time, they face the New York Jets. Back in Week 10, the Raiders lost a nailbiter to the Giants, so this time, the Silver and Black will want to leave town with a smile on their faces.
They might find it pretty possible if the Jets play like they did in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins, losing 23-3 at home. In that game, New York benched rookie starting quarterback Geno Smith and totaled 177 total yards.
Now at 5-7, the Jets find themselves buried in the AFC playoff picture, with tiebreaker losses to the other three 5-7 teams.
New York, like Oakland, is unofficially playing for 2014 now.
Does that mean the Raiders can win Sunday? You betcha.
We all know the Silver and Black are no great shakes in 2013, but with Matt McGloin at quarterback, the Raiders have been pretty competitive in the last three games — despite losing two of them in the second half after holding leads.
But the Jets seem ill-equipped to do much on offense, no matter which opponent is on the field with them right now.
Overall, New York is ranked 30th in total offense, averaging just 303.8 yards per game. And now, thanks to the San Francisco 49ers weak schedule the past two weeks, the Jets have the worst passing game in the NFL this year (179.1 yards per game).
In a league where throwing the ball and airing it out is paramount, New York is having a rough go of it. Benching Smith for fellow rookie Matt Simms — yes, he is another son of former Giants standout QB Phil Simms — probably isn’t going to solve the problem, either, although maybe Simms will be less turnover-prone than Smith has been in 2014.
Smith has 23 turnovers this season, including 19 interceptions, and that’s the worst figure in the NFL. He’s also been sacked 38 times this year. With no passing threat, the Jets running backs have had a tough time, too. Chris Ivory does lead the team with 563 yards and a 4.4 per-carry average, but just think how much better he would be if opposing defenses weren’t keying on him every time he takes the field.
The Raiders also will have to contend with Bilal Powell out of the backfield, but he’s been less successful than Ivory this year (516 yards, 3.9 per carry).
Because the Jets have had so many QB challenges, their receiving corps has struggled, too. Even getting former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes back from injury hasn’t helped the New York offense.
Defensively, head coach Rex Ryan will keep his team sharp, and linebacker David Harris (98 tackles this season) spearheads a solid unit — ranked 12th in the NFL, giving up 333.8 yards per contest in 2013. Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson also has been a revelation for the Jets this year on the defensive side of the ball.
The Raiders may find it hard to run against New York, as the Jets lead the NFL in run defense, giving up just 77.0 yards a game on the ground. Perhaps Oakland will need to utilize both Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings in this one in order to pound the New York front seven enough to open up some passing lanes for McGloin.
In the Thanksgiving Day loss in Dallas, Jennings got 17 carries and McFadden just five — this will need to change against the Jets, since the Raiders have two very good RBs to throw at any defense.
If the Silver and Black can throw on the Jets, they figure to have a solid day on the scoreboard. New York is just 25th against the pass, giving up 256.8 yards each week in the air. But McGloin will need to make sure his offense is at least trying to keep the Jets off balance with enough semi-successful rushing attempts.
And he’ll have to make the big plays when the opportunity arises.
All in all, this game next Sunday probably won’t be a classic like the Heidi Game, but the Raiders hope to get a similar result on their last trip to the East Coast this season.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.