Raiders At Jets Preview: Weird Game Might Be Key Indicator For Stretch Run

One of my favorite video games growing up was Star Fox for the N64, and for whatever reason, the one scene I always remember about that game was (I believe) from the multiplayer function. As soon as the round starts, there’s dialogue within the game until all of a sudden one of the characters screams: “Watch out Fox, it’s a trap!”

As I think about the Oakland Raiders’ game against the New York Jets game this weekend, I can’t help but think there are plenty of folks in the Raider building screaming the same thing. Not only did the Raiders limp past the worst team in the league at home last week, but this game has all the makings of a trap imaginable:

  • Team that could be easily overlooked (Raiders are favorites on the road)
  • 10 a.m. body clock start
  • Long trip
  • Biggest game of the season the following week

So, what are the keys to making sure the Raiders head to Kansas City coming off a win (and tied for the divisional lead)?

Run the ball

This one seems obvious, but you’d probably be surprised to hear that the Jets have the league’s No. 1 run defense at just 79.1 yards allowed per game. Considering how many games their opponents have probably tried to run out the clock in, that number is especially impressive. The Raiders enter the game with the league’s ninth-best rushing offense (128.2 yards per game), so something has to give.

One last thing to consider here is the weather: currently the forecast for the game is cold and rainy, meaning establishing the run could be even more important.

Sam Darnold versus the Raider ball hawks

In his last two games, Darnold has thrown for 523 yards and fine touchdowns, while adding one rushing touchdown and turning the ball over twice (one interception, one fumble). Given, this was against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, but still — for a guy who came into the league with high expectations it isn’t “nothing” when you consider he might be getting his confidence back.

Regardless, one thing that has plagued Darnold — both in college and the pros — is the propensity to turn the ball over. In seven games this year, he has 10 interceptions and four fumbles (one lost). For the Raiders to survive this week, they’ll probably need to turn Darnold over at least once — maybe twice — just to give their offense as many chances as possible. The good news is that this has been their calling card of late — not so much being stingy as lengthening drives and taking chances on forcing turnovers.

Sack city

In seven games Darnold has been sacked 22 times (although this number might be slightly inflated thanks to their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars when he was sacked eight times). Of late, the Raider pass rush has really turned it on — securing 12 sacks in their past three games. As we noted above, Darnold isn’t the most secure-with-the-ball quarterback in the league, and so if the Raiders can force pressure upfront (in the cold, rainy weather) it could set the table for everyone else to make plays.

Daniel Carlson time?

The one guy on the Raider roster who I would have expected to make a bigger impact thus far is their kicker, Daniel Carlson. The good news is that he has been quiet not because he has been bad, but simply because he hasn’t been used. On the season he’s 10/13 on field goal attempts and 27/28 on extra points.

For some reason I feel like this might be a big week for Carlson. I could see the Raiders winning a low scoring game behind a handful of field goals from him. I know the cold / rain combination isn’t ideal for kickers, but I’ve got a hunch on this one.

Prediction: Raiders 19, Jets 10

Give me four Carlson field goals and a Carr-to-Darren Waller touchdown and I think the Raiders put this one away. I think this one will be close until the end, but the Waller touchdown late in the fourth secures it and gives Oakland a pleasant plane ride out of New York.

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