Could Jets, on win streak, prove dangerous for Raiders?
If there was ever a bad time to be facing the New York Jets, the Raiders just may be experiencing it this week. At second glance, the once-laughable Jets may no longer deserve the scorn they've been drawing most of the season.
If you're among most NFL fans, you haven't bothered to notice the Jets are now riding a two-game winning streak. And, judging by how difficult it was for Oakland to dispose of the winless Bengals on Sunday, beating the Jets might not be an easy task.
For the first time in more than a year, the Jets offense accounted for more than 400 yards in a game while New York routed Washington 34-17 on Sunday. Is it a case of fortunes changing or just fortunate opponents? The Jets' recent wins have come against the Giants and Washington, neither a team that could be mistaken for a contender.
Still, those who embrace historical coincidences might get a kick out of the similarities surrounding the Oakland Raiders' first NFL road game against the Jets, 49 years ago, and this, their final one in New York this Sunday.
Here's a closer look at some factors that may determine which team prevails this week:
Three reasons for Raiders to be optimistic
The grounded Jets' running attack: The Jets hoped for much more from Le'Veon Bell when they signed him to a four-year, $52 million free-agent deal before the season. Instead, they've got the league's 21st-leading rusher and a guy who has averaged more than 3½ yards per carry in just one game this season. Of course, it's not all Bell's fault. His offensive line has struggled all year trying to open up holes. His 18-carry, 59-yard game against Washington Sunday was actually one of better games statistically for the Jets.
Big troubles up front: Speaking of the Jets' offensive line, it will need to be much better than it's been to slow down a suddenly emerging Raiders defensive front with rookies Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell. But do the Jets' linemen have it in them? The numbers certainly don't suggest it. The Jets have the 31st-rated line in terms of rushing (See Bell's struggles). Things don't get much better when Sam Darnold drops back to pass, either. New York's line has allowed the second-most sacks (42) in the league and it has allowed a sack on 11.6% of the Jets' passing plays, also second-worst in the league.
Mistakes waiting to happen: The theme for most of the Jets' season have been their self-induced troubles. From the rashes of turnovers to the glut of penalties, it's not surprising New York has struggled. The Jets have gotten a bit better about the turnovers lately, but still have the fifth-most in the NFL with 19 giveaways (13 interceptions, six fumbles). The Jets are also the third-most penalized team in total yards. Those factors help explain why the Jets average just 16.4 points per game.
Three reasons for Raiders to be pessimistic
NFL's toughest front? Don't let the Jets' record fool you - these guys are no pushover, particularly New York's defensive front seven, led by emerging star run stuffer Folorunso Fatukasi. Since Week 6, the former sixth-round pick from Connecticut has graded out better than every NFL lineman except two - the Rams' Aaron Donald and the Jaguars' Calais Campbell. After holding Washington to just 54 yards on 20 carries (2.7 yards per carry), the Jets are officially the most difficult team in the NFL to run the ball against, only permitted an average of 81.9 yards on the ground.
Most dominant safety around: Jamal Adams has arguably been the best defensive player in the NFL over the past three weeks. Over that time, the third-year star safety has set a Jets record for most sacks for a defensive back (six) as well as totaling 16 tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a touchdowns.
A receiver to worry about: Jamison Crowder is again someone teams need to be concerned about after joining the Jets this season following a down season with Washington last year. Crowder and Darnold have hooked up for touchdown passes in three consecutive games.