The autumn wind is a pirate, blustering in from sea...*
And so begins the prelude to one of the most memorable sports melodies ever, "The Raiders" from Sam Spence and NFL Films Music. Listen closely at MetLife on Sunday and you'll no doubt hear some strings and trumpets belting the theme out from the audio devices being carried by some of the silver-and-black wearers who scored tickets for the game.
The Jets must plug their earholes and resist this siren song. They must play better in this final, last, concluding, ultimate must-win game to make the playoffs. In truth they probably won't make the postseason grid even if they run the table, not with five other teams at 6-6 or 5-7. But something similar could have been said — was in fact said by Rex Ryan — when they fell to 7-7 with a home loss to Atlanta in 2009. And recall what happened there.
In any event, a loss by the 5-7 Jets to the 4-8 Raiders won't just rob us of our gold but also of the last shred of a chance for the AFC sixth seed.
With all this in mind, here are 10 things to look for at Sunday's Jets-Raiders game:
1. Wideouts, Ahoy — We engaged in wishful thinking in last week's "10 Things," but the prospect of having perhaps Geno Smith's three most dangerous receiving targets on the field in No. 10 Santonio Holmes, No. 11 Jeremy Kerley and No. 81 Kellen Winslow for the first time in half a season is great. As Rex said today, Kerley "looks outstanding," Holmes is "ready to go" and Winslow "looks good also." And Geno's confidence appears to be sky-high after enjoying perhaps his best passing week of practice this regular season.
2. Third Degree — One of Smith's problem areas lately has been third down — he's 0-for-his-last-11 passing on that down and his offense has converted just one of its last 19 opportunities. Perhaps it will pay dividends that Winslow, who's been resting his aching knee on Thursdays, took Wednesday off this week so that he could work today, when third downs are a part of the practice schedule. "We just haven't executed, on third down especially," Winslow said, "so we're just trying to get back to what's efficient."
- It's Not As Good to Give... —** Our turnover differential has dipped to minus-18. It's the lowest in the NFL, the lowest it's been for us at this time in a season in franchise history, and it's only the fifth week we've ever been at minus-18 or lower in a week. If turnover margin were blood pressure, we'd be on Lisinopril bigtime by now. Let's look for better decision-making from Smith and get that reading back down to manageable levels.
4. ...As It Is to Receive —Our fumble takeaways are hard to fathom. We've got some hard hitters, we've never had a drought like this, yet part of that plus-minus margin is one opponents' fumble recovery in the last 11 games, officially the worst stretch of fumble extraction in our history. It's so dire that we haven't even forced a fumble in the last three games. As Mo Wilkerson has said about the D in general but could have said about this problem, "This is not Jets football." The law of averages alone suggest we should look for a Raider to cough up the leather at least once.
5. QB or Not QB — Coach Dennis Allen appears to be riding Matt McGloin over Terrelle Pryor at QB, and why not? McGloin is playing at a higher level than we should expect a free agent rookie to be able to attain. He's producing a touchdown every five drives, about the league average, he's got an 84.6 passer rating, and in three starts he's been sacked only twice. If our pass rush can only take down the most sacked QB in the league (Miami's Ryan Tannehill) just once, what chance do we have against the quick-releasing McGloin? But if Wilkerson, Calvin Pace & Co. keep the pressure on, eventually it will pay dividends.
6. More Happy Returns? — It's been a tough year for our top kick returners. Joe McKnight was released in September, Jeremy Kerley's been banged-up, and Josh Cribbs was just placed on IR. But the pro personnel department may have hit another homer with the signing of Darius Reynaud, late of the Titans and the only man in the last five years to return two punt returns for TDs in the same NFL game. "I want to bring a lot of excitement to the return game," said Reynaud, the new No. 24. And Geno Smith, who didn't play with him at West Virginia but is well aware of his talents, said simply, "He's got juice."
|First Downs Gained/Game||16.3||16.6|
|First Downs Allowed/Game||18.0||20.1|
|Time of Possession/Game||29:45||30:20|
7. Mild or Wild— With Cribbs' departure, the Wildcat goes into hibernation ... or does it? Cribbs surely was the most artful shotgun QB with 14 snaps averaging 5.5 yards per play since he arrived. But Bilal Powell also has run the 'Cat, as has Kerley, who we learn from No. 2 above is ready to return to action, and even Reynaud, a RB/WR by offensive trade, said he's willing to do anything to help his new team, including riding the 'Cat. What that means for the Raiders game is we'll have to be on our toes watching for it.
8. Back-Back-Back — It's hard to say who'll be toting the rock for the Raiders. Leading rusher Rashad Jennings is still going through the NFL concussion protocol and Darren McFadden (ankle) and Jeremy Stewart (ankle/knee) have been hobbled with injuries this week. But Allen ticked off Marcel Reece, Jamize Olawale and Taiwan Jones. Through their nicks and nacks, the Raiders still are fifth in the NFL in rush yards/game (133.1) and fourth in yards/carry (4.7). They'll be a test for the Jets' run defense, No. 1 in yards allowed/game and /carry for the last six weeks.
9. Go East, Young Men — Jets fans should look very closely at the visitors' white uniforms with black trim and savor what a treat it is to see them playing on this side of the country for a change. Due to several different scheduling quirks, 10 of the last 12 games in this rivalry since '99 have been played at the Oakland/Alameda County Coliseum, Network Associates Coliseum, O.co Coliseum and whatever other name that dinosaur by the bay has been called. The last three games here have been Jets victories. We should enjoy having Oakland in our back yard while we've got it.
10. Jets Lag — Also in keeping with No. 9 above, look for signs of droopy eyelids, heavy breathing and napping on the visitors' sideline. The Raiders have lost 12 consecutive road games played in the Eastern Time Zone since 2009. In those 12 games the Silver & Black have been outscored on average by about 31-16, they have a combined minus-12 turnover margin and they've held a fourth-quarter lead for only 14½ minutes total in those games. What do you think that means, Rex? "It means," said Ryan, "we'd better win." Enough said.
|JETS-RAIDERS RIVALRY FACTS||Record/Score|
|Regular-Season Series Record||Raiders 21-15-2|
|Last Game||Raiders 34-24, 2011|
|Last Jets Win||Jets 38-0, 2009|
|Current Streak||Jets 4 out of 6|
|Regular-Season Record @ NYJ||Jets 9-8-1|
|Last Game||Jets 23-3, 2006|
|Last Raiders Win||Raiders 34-13, 1996|
|Current Streak||Jets 3 in a row|
|Postseason Series Record||Tied 2-2|
|Last Game||Raiders 30-10, 2002|