The Oakland Raiders (4-8) are matched up against a fellow former AFL team in the New York Jets (5-7) in week 14. As if once wasn’t enough, the Silver and Black get to play for a second time this season in MetLife Stadium–hoping to get a victory that would beat their last season record of 4-12. The historical head-to-head matchup between the two teams is 23-17-2 in the Raiders’ favor. These two teams are most famously known for the “Heidi Game,” in which the Raiders never gave up on the game even if the broadcast network did.
Both the teams are coming into this matchup with losing streaks, the Raiders at two games and the Jets at three games. Surprisingly, both teams are still in the playoff hunt for the last AFC wild card spot, although the Raiders’ chances are fairly slim. For the Jets, a victory on Sunday will propel them back into the hunt, albeit a long shot.
The Jets are fairly healthy with tight end Kellen Winslow and wideout Santonio Holmes the only players who could miss the game. The Raiders got beat up pretty bad in the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Players like Usama Young, Mike Briesel, Darren McFadden and even Rashad Jennings have missed time in practice. McFadden could be done for the year with an ankle injury. For most Raider fans that comes with no surprise, as another year passes by with all the potential unfulfilled. McFadden has to be the most frustrating player over the last decade for the Raiders and could find himself without a job this offseason.
The Jets’ struggles have primarily coincided with the struggles of rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Throw in a struggling secondary and its no mystery why this Jets team sits in such a precarious position. Smith was benched in favor of Matt Simms in their loss to the Miami Dolphins, but Simms did no better. On offense, the Jets lack a big play threat– a player who has the ability to break a game wide open. Second-year receiver Stephen Hill has not lived up to the hype that he generated coming out of college.
The Jets’ secondary has given up too many big plays for head coach Rex Ryan’s liking. Ryan even benched first round pick Dee Milliner earlier in the season due to poor play. The Jets have picked up Ed Reed to play free safety, but he is on his last legs and there are questions as to how much he has left in the tank.
The Jets’ strength is definitely their defensive line where they generate a lot of pressure, which is remarkable given their 3-4 alignment. The linebacking corps is above average with the presence of Calvin Pace and altogether, the front seven is an intimidating bunch when you throw in Muhammad Wilkerson and rookie Sheldon Richardson. With all the pressure and run-stuffing ability of the front seven, the secondary should be playing better.
The Raiders, on the other hand, have finally gotten healthy on the offensive line–where they got their star left tackle Jared Veldheer back. Veldheer went against DeMarcus Ware all game and only allowed one quarterback pressure and no sacks. The left side of the line has all of a sudden become a strength for the Silver and Black. A 3-4 defense is well suited to attack both sides of the line and the loss of Briesel at right guard could open holes there.
All in all I believe this is a very winnable game for the Raiders. The old AFL foes should play out a tough physical old-school game and I see the Raiders getting their fifth win of the season and helping the case of head coach Dennis Allen. Allen has been very good fit the Raiders given the circumstances: A nightmarish cap situation and high turnover in personnel. With nine new starters on defense Allen put a watchable defense on the field and kept his team paying hard through all the injuries. The worst thing that could happen to the Raiders this year would be losing Allen and the outstanding staff that he has assembled. It is vital that the Raiders get enough wins to secure his job.
The Jets also need this game to help the cause of their coach and also to stay in playoff contention. I see a hard fought game in which the Raiders eke out a victory.