Keeping Their Eyes on the Prize in the Black Hole

If one of the Jets' rookies were to approach Eric Barton to ask him what it's going to be like playing in "the Black Hole," he would say, "It's going to be fun."

"They're a spirited group of different individuals. They love football there and it's going to be loud," said Barton, the fifth-year Jet whose first five seasons were spent as a Raider. "It's probably going to be the first time a lot of people have seen something like this and it's going to be a great experience for most of them."

All the Jets will experience it this coming weekend when the Jets fly west to play the Raiders at the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum — the Black Hole.

"Win or lose, they're into the game," Barton said about Oakland fans. "They're very adamant about the Raiders and they pride themselves on making it hard for other people to play there."

Many reporters and even some Jets fans are looking to a Week 9 showdown vs. the Buffalo Bills as the Jets' next real challenge. But seasoned veterans like fullback Tony Richardson know about the danger of taking your eyes off of what's directly in front of you.

"The NFL is about today, it's about tomorrow and it's about the upcoming game and that's the only thing we can control," said Richardson. "This is the National Football League and I believe every football team is dangerous, regardless of what their situation is.

"Playing in Kansas City for as long as I did, that was one of our rivals and I know a lot of guys on that Oakland team," he said. "There's a lot of pride on that team and there's a lot of guys that have won and expect to win. That's the way we have to approach it. Those guys are getting paid and they're very, very skilled athletes. We know we're going to see them at their best, and if we expect anything less, then we're shorting ourselves.

"We really can't control what they have going on over there. We just have to get ourselves mentally and physically prepared to go out there and play a good game.

While Oakland's coaching situation has been unsettled and other parts of the Raiders' game has struggled, they have been very productive on the ground. In fact, the talented backfield triumvirate of Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas has led them to the fourth-best rushing offense in the league.

They will clash with a Jets defense that is currently yielding a stingy 2.9 yards per carry.

Nose tackle Kris Jenkins has been given plenty of attention by the Jets media and fans who've watched the team struggle to stop the run the previous several seasons.

The Jets rush defense is No. 3 in the league. With such a sharp turnaround, many have anointed Jenkins as the defense's savior, but he would disagree.

"A lot of people look at it like, 'Oh, you came to New York so you stopped the run," he said. "I wish I could take all the credit, but it's 11 people out there and I'm not making every single tackle. I'm just doing what I can as a player to help out that group and everybody that's on that defense has a selfless approach to this thing."

Jenkins may not be the only reason the defense has been so successful early in the season, but the unit will rely heavily on the big man to do what he does best, as the Jets go for their fourth win of the season.

"We all understand that we have to be at our best doing our job to help each and every one of us out to be a complete defense, and I think that's what is starting to show," he said. "I think that the team unity is really coming together and I think that is what is starting to show on the field and not just a single effort."

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