After a nail-biting loss to Indianapolis, the Oakland Raiders will head home to The Black Hole to host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the home opener. With all the naysayers in the media, one would think that this game is one to overlook.
After the effort put forth in Indy, this game could prove to be a kickstarter for Oakland. There are five key matchups to keep an eye on in this game, and here we are to analyze them for you, the faithful Raider Nation!
1. Terrelle Pryor Vs. The Jacksonville Defense
After a strong showing in Indianapolis, Pryor walked away with a stat line surprising many network analysts. Passing for 217 yards and setting a franchise record with 112 rushing yards as a QB, TP2 looked dynamic. Where Pryor will have a big advantage is the fact that Jacksonville has yet to face a dual-threat QB, or a read-option offense. ;
They did not play any read-option teams last season or in Week 1 of this season. So while their defense is keyed in on Darren McFadden, Pryor may scramble for 20+ yards, or vice versa. Lets not forget about the play-action possibilities as well! I would say that it isn’t unrealistic to expect a 250-300 yard passing, and a 75-100 yard rushing game from Pryor on Sunday.
2. DMC vs. MJD
Darren McFadden vs. Maurice Jones-Drew. A match made in heaven for the running purist of the NFL. Both of these men can break off a 30+ yard run at any given moment. After coming off a year in a scheme that was definitely not a fit for him, McFadden is hungry to prove that he can still be a workhorse back for Oakland. Greg Knapp’s offensive scheme required McFadden to make 2-3 cuts, then break down field. McFadden does his best work when he can square his shoulders to the line and run.
After a paltry 3.3 yards/carry, he is ready to break out in 2013 in a downhill offense. Maurice Jones-Drew is in a similar situation, coming off a season derailed by injury. A Lisfranc injury put Jones-Drew down before he could even get started to run. Last Sunday’s game against Kansas City saw him run for only 45 yards and no TDs. MJD wants to get back to his pre-injury form, and is looking to do so against Oakland’s defense. Behind his offensive line, that may be no easy task. Both runners have rag-tag lines to run behind, making this a truly “mano y mano” run-off.
3. Chad Henne vs. Oakland’s Secondary
With Blaine Gabbert out, suffering from a lacerated hand, it will be Chad Henne‘s responsibility to try to lead the Jags against a completely overhauled Raiders defense. The looks and coverages from last season are long gone, and new players have been inserted. What he faced last season is nothing like what he expects to be up against on Sunday; A hungry, young defense led by a Raider known simply as No. 24: Charles Woodson.
Woodson is the type of player that can make a defense better just by stepping onto the field. With lots of young blood and energy around him, he can be the driving force in stopping a Jaguars win. Henne on the other hand, is thought by many to be the better of the QB tandem in Jacksonville. Starting 6 games last season, he racked up 11 TD’s, along with 11 INT’s, totaling 2,084 yards passing and 64 yards rushing. The question is, Will Henne’s numbers standup to a secondary comprised of Woodson, Branch, Hayden, Porter, and Jenkins?
4. Henne’s Down Field Targets Will Be Limited
With the suspension of Justin Blackmon, The Jaguars took a blow to the receiving corps. In last week’s loss to The Chiefs, The Jaguars’ number one receiver, Cecil Shorts III, was only able to snag 40 yards receiving on 3 receptions. During this stretch without Blackmon, The Jags are going to need someone to step up and fill the void. The Raiders can use this to their advantage by keeping receptions short of the first down markers and forcing some 3-and-out situations.
They can also use this and load up the short field with extra defensive backs. Loading the box with extra defensive backs will force the receivers to go down field and enter the part of the field belonging to Branch and Woodson. This causes the receivers to face to go one-on-one with two big bodied, fast, and strong safties known for having a knack for interceptions.
5. Jacksonville’s O-Line vs. Oakland’s D-Line
Oakland’s D-Line got a major shot in the arm by getting Pat Sims, Vance Walker, and Lamarr Houston all on the field at once. Sims and Walker were effective at plugging up the middle and stopping the run game, as well as pressuring Andrew Luck. Jacksonville has already lost their starting QB due to shoddy protection by the O-Line.
Oakland has a multiple-look defensive front this year, and Jacksonville will not know where the pressure is going to be coming from. Gabbert took so much punishment in one half of football, that he had to be removed and sat for the following week as well. If Kansas City can bring that kind of pressure, why can’t Oakland? Just a year ago, these teams were playing for a Top 5 draft slot. Now they look to show each other some improved play.
If Oakland can win these matchups, there is no reason that they can’t bring home the W this week. Jacksonville is walking into a place where the home team is transformed into hungry animals by the crowd. The Autumn Wind is a Raider, and across the visitor’s locker room door should be written “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…”