Sunday’s NFL season opener between the visiting Oakland Raiders and host New York Jets features two teams that are evenly matched and (at least on offense) very similar. They are both starting young QB’s and planning to ride or die with them.
The Jets finished 8-8 last season (the Raiders ended up 4-12) but they won three of their last four games to save head coach Rex Ryan’s job. Geno Smith was a big reason for that, he threw four touchdowns to just two interceptions, as opposed to eight TD’s to 19 INT’s in his first 12 games. They need to improve the passing game that averaged just 183 yards per game, 31st in the NFL. However, NY signed the always athletic Michael Vick to provide some competition for Smith. And Geno won the job, Vick saying all the right things, “he just wanted to be there to mentor the youngster.”
Eric Decker was added to help improved the Jets wide receiver position. A lot of analysts think Decker (87 receptions, 1,288 yards, 14.8 yards per catch, and 11 TD’s) was a product of Peyton Manning’s consistency. Decker will get the chance to show he is in fact a good WR without a Hall of Famer slinging him the ball. So Decker (like a lot of other players on the Jets) will have something to prove, especially after catching just one pass for six yards in the Super Bowl and signing a huge contract with NY. And he is going to be counted on to be the #1 WR and help improve the 31st ranked passing offense.
The Jets signed fading superstar running back Chris Johnson to help enhance their running game (6th in the league with 134.9 yards per game). Johnson will be counted on to provide more big plays than NY had last season. Despite a couple sub-par seasons, he is an upgrade over power back Chris Ivory who will now split carries with CJ.
Derek Carr won the starting job away from veteran Matt Schaub and second year pro Matt McGloin with a great pre-season finale against the NFL champion Seattle Seahawks. Carr completed 11 of 13 passes for 143, including three TD’s. And he’s got some help after the Raiders signed veteran WR James Jones away from Green Bay. Carr and Jones will need to be on the same page in order to help improve their passing game, they averaged 209ypg last season (tied for 24th in the league). Jones is two seasons removed from leading the NFL with 14 TD catches, but he’ll be catching passes from a young and untested QB.
Maurice Jones-Drew had a homecoming when he signed a two year deal with the team in the offseason. MJD was born in Oakland and attended powerhouse De La Salle in Concord before playing college ball at UCLA. MJD is familiar with the offense having played for Oakland’s offensive coordinator Greg Olson in Jacksonville during the 2012 season. He will tag team with holdover Darren McFadden (he signed a one year deal in the offseason) to try and give Oakland a top five running game. MJD and McFadden should give them two solid RB’s to help give Carr a reliable running game to ease him into his rookie campaign.
Defensively, the Jets are strong along the defensive line (possibly the best in the NFL) and have talent at linebacker, but are weak in the secondary.
They let Antonio Cromartie leave as a free agent and last year’s key draft pick Dee Milliner who was hurt and showed very little. Leon McFadden is inconsistent and Carr will need to attack the CB’s in order to get a road win. Patterson and converted free safety Antonio Allen are starting at CB week one, God help NY fans.
The Raiders feature a remodeled defensive line with holdover DE’s Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley, new DT Antonio Smith and holdover DT Pat Sims. Austin Howard is a new member to Oakland’s OL and he might be a secret weapon for the Raiders. He could help the defensive line know NY’s offensive plays since he was there last season.
This is a must win for both teams. In week one? Why? It’s a very winnable game for both teams, it’s a tossup. Neither team wants to start 0-1 heading into week two, it would be a horrible way to start the season.
I think this will be an offensive game with the defenses taking a few weeks to get in game shape, defenses are usually a few weeks behind the offenses until they get a few weeks in.
Carr and Smith will have their moments and I think Oakland’s stability and cohesiveness in the secondary (veterans Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch at safety and Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown at cornerback) will provide to be the difference.
NY was third against the run last season (allowing just 88ypg) so it’s going to be on Carr and the passing offense to win this game most likely. Carr will need to show the poise of a veteran and look like he did against the Seahawks in order for them to pull out a win. The Jets secondary is susceptible and vulnerable, Carr will have a solid debut, despite Rex throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him.
Raiders win, 27-24.
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