OAKLAND, Calif. — The Jets know no one is giving them a chance of beating the Raiders on Sunday. They are nearly two-touchdown underdogs viewed as nothing more than a speed bump for the Super Bowl contending Raiders.
They’re not listening.
“I think we can match up with anybody,” Jets cornerback Buster Skrine said this week.
Well, we’re about to find out.
The Jets won’t face many teams more talented than the Raiders offensively. They have stud wide receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, an emerging star at quarterback in Derek Carr and a rejuvenated Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. They are not as impressive on defense, but they do have reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack.
Add in the fact that this is the Raiders’ home opener and Lynch’s hometown debut, and this feels like a recipe for a blowout.
“They’ve got all types of weapons over there,” Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “They’re loaded. But I feel like if we do everything we have to do and stay on top of our details and gang tackle, I feel like we’ll be all right.”
The Jets are coming off a season-opening loss to the Bills when they did very little on either side of the ball.
Quarterback Josh McCown said the team is not worried about an underdog label.
“If that’s what we are, that’s what we are,” McCown said. “We’re just, in our minds, going in and doing what it takes to win the football game. They’re a good team, a team on the rise, that had an excellent year last year. They have a heck of a quarterback, and so we need to go out there and play good football.
“To me, it’s less about them and more about us and what we have to do and how we have to continue our process of growing, because we’re a young team. We have new pieces everywhere and for us, every week is about just trying to go out and get better and improve on what we’re doing so that we continue to grow and build to what we want to be.”
This could be the Jets’ final visit to the Oakland Coliseum, site of many memorable Jets-Raiders games. The team is moving to Las Vegas in a few years. A Jets win Sunday would be one of the biggest upsets in team history.
Jets defensive line vs. Raiders offensive line
This is strength against strength, or is it?
The Jets’ defensive line did not play up to their reputation last week against the Bills, giving up 190 rushing yards. They need Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Co. to regain their dominant form in this one or it could get ugly.
Jets coach Todd Bowles even singled out the defensive line this week during the team meeting on Monday.
“Our room, we take a lot of pressure. Coach even called us out,” Wilkerson said. “We take pride in ourselves and our work, and we definitely accepted the challenge and know we got to play better this week.”
How will they respond?
“We men,” Wilkerson said. “I feel like as a man, you should definitely want to accept that challenge.”
The Raiders have three Pro Bowlers on the offensive line. They showed what they could do last week against the Titans when they took over the game in the fourth quarter and the Raiders ran out the clock.
Beast of the West: Marshawn Lynch returned after one year of retirement to join his hometown Raiders. Last week, he rushed 18 times for 76 yards and did not show any signs of rust.
“He looks better than ever,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “He actually looks quicker. Laterally, he looks just as good as he always has.”
Lynch ran over Titans star Jurrell Casey on one play last week and consistently pushed for extra yards when he got the ball.
“This guy, it looks really good coming back and it’s just why we were stressing this week we have to get everybody to the ball,” Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rogers said. “It’s going to be hard for one guy to bring this guy down. We have to get everybody to the ball.”
The Raiders are being smart with Lynch and not overusing him. He sat out whole series last week against Tennessee. But their backup running backs — DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard — played pretty well behind that huge offensive line, too.
Nowhere to run: The Jets rushed for just 38 yards last week in Buffalo. There were no holes for Matt Forte or Bilal Powell to get through. They must do a better job this week of finding some space.
Some people said the Bills loaded the box to stop the Jets run, but they only did that on about a dozen plays. The rest of the time, the Jets had room to run but could not find it. The Bills’ defensive line dominated the matchup.
The Raiders are not as dominant up front as the Bills, but Khalil Mack can blow up running plays the way he gets into a backfield so quick. Oakland’s defensive weakness is its linebackers, so the Jets might find easier sledding this week.
Into the Black Hole: This could be the Jets’ final visit to the Oakland Coliseum, aka The Black Hole. The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas in a few years and the scheduling formula does not have the Jets visiting the Raiders for a while.
There are not many places tougher to play in the NFL and this crowd should be juiced. It is the Raiders first home game of the year and marks the first game for Lynch in front of his hometown fans as a Raider.
“They got some crazy fans out there,” Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “You think it’s Halloween when you go out there.”
Mack attack: Last week, the Jets had one offensive player to stop and could not do it, allowing Bills running back LeSean McCoy to run all over them. This week, they have one defensive player they must stop — defensive end Khalil Mack.
Mack won Defensive Player of the Year last season and has 30 sacks in his first three seasons. He can take over a game.
“There’s a lot of challenges with him,” Jets offensive coordinator John Morton said. “He’s probably one of the best rushers in football. We have a plan for him, definitely. He can wreck a game, so we have to make sure we account for him wherever he is at.”
This one will be ugly. The Raiders are really, really talented on offense. They should have a huge day against a Jets defense that clearly still is trying to figure things out. Khalil Mack will have at least two sacks, and this one won’t be close.
Raiders 33, Jets 14
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