Count Ryan Fitzpatrick among those who are impressed with what the Raiders have been showing to the NFL this season.
Defensively, the quarterback said today, "They make it difficult for you to run the ball. They have two great edge pass rushers, guys that are a mismatch for pretty much everybody in the league with the talent level they have out there. They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and anytime you can do that, you have a chance to be successful."
But the Jets have a chance to be successful in the Black Hole on Sunday because they have a secret weapon in ... the aforementioned Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"I've been there the last few years. I keep coming back in different uniforms," he said with a smile. "My parents are in Arizona, so anytime you've got family that goes to the game, unfortunately they can't sport the jersey. The fans are pretty crazy out there, so you're in the witness protection program, kind of. But yeah, I think it's a fun atmosphere and I'm sure coming off of last week's win, it'll be nice and crazy."
Yet Fitz was being modest. He has an interesting streak going against the Silver & Black: three victories as the starting quarterback for three different opponents — the Bills, Titans and Texans — all in the previous four seasons, with two of them comeback victories and two road wins. The particulars:
2011, Week 2 — Buffalo 38, Oakland 35, at Ralph Wilson Stadium
The Bills fell behind, 21-3 at halftime, but Fitzpatrick rallied the troops for a fantastic finish that included three fourth-quarter come-from-behind touchdowns, including the game-winning 6-yard pass to David Nelson (a future Jet himself at the time) with 14 seconds to play.
2013, Week 12 — Tennessee 23, Oakland 19, at O.co Coliseum
Fitz led the Titans from a 19-16 deficit to the win on a 10-yard TD toss to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds to go.
2014, Week 2 — Houston 30, Oakland 14, at O.Co Coliseum
Finally a game decided before the final drive. In fact, Fitzpatrick threw touchdown passes to J.J. Watt as a tight end and Deandre Hopkins as the Texans opened a 27-0 lead through three quarters.
"Yeah, I remember each of those games," he told me. "The Tennessee game in '13 came down to the last drive, and it was on my birthday, so I have a real good memory of that one."
Besides the wins, Fitz's numbers in those three games are sparkling: 67.3% accuracy, 7 TDs to 1 INT, a 104.2 passer rating, and a 35.7% TD drive rate.
In the NFL as in the stock market, past performance has no bearing on future results. But Fitzpatrick has the knowledge of a savvy traveler to be able to counsel his Jets teammates on what it will take to prevail in their latest 3,000-plus-miles business trip.
"Flying to the West Coast, you've got to deal with all that stuff," he said. "And just being on the road in that atmosphere, overcoming any early adversity is just something we're going to have to do. And we're going to have to have great communication with everybody."
But he's also got a good gig at his latest stop with the 4-2 Jets, having been sacked only four times in those six games, and directing the NFL's No. 8 offense with the third-ranked running game and the seventh-ranked point machine. And in today's first practice following the disappointing fall-from-ahead at New England, he liked what he saw.
"We did have a nice, spirited practice today. It showed some maturity in terms of us being able to put the last game behind us and really put all of our focus into Oakland," he said. "That's the NFL every week. Everybody's going to come to play and give you their best. And that's what we expect out of the guys here. We've got to give our best, too."
Rain Pushed the Team's Midweek Work Inside the AHJTC Fieldhouse