By Brad Carroll
If it’s even possible, the New York Jets were worse than anyone could have imagined in their opening-week loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Jets were terrible on offense, just as bad on defense and the coaching was abysmal as well. It wasn’t a good start to the season, unless of course, you are in the camp of wanting the Jets to tank the season. In that case, this season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.
This week the opponent gets that much tougher, which is bad news for a Jets team that couldn’t even beat a poor Bills squad. The Oakland Raiders host the Jets Sunday and are currently 13.5-point favorites. That number might actually be on the short side, as this Week 2 matchup could be over in a hurry, especially if the Jets don’t improve from their Week 1 loss.
The Raiders do hold the blueprint for what the Jets are trying to accomplish, going from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best. It helps that the Raiders have a star quarterback, Derek Carr, a veteran power running back, Marshawn Lynch, and a young star on defense, Khalil Mack. The Jets are hoping they are on their way, but there are no doubt going to be serious growing pains along the way, and this game could be a big pain for Jets fans.
Here are three keys to a Jets’ victory, however unlikely.
Run The Ball Successfully
The Jets were a complete failure running the ball against Buffalo last week, registering just 38 yards. Matt Forte was a non-factor and looked old on the way to 16 yards on six carries. Bilal Powell wasn’t used until the second quarter, a baffling decision by the coaching staff, but didn’t fare much better than Forte, gaining 22 yards on seven carries. There’s no doubt the Jets have to do better than that to even have a chance at beating the Raiders Sunday. The Titans had some success on the ground against the Raiders in Week 1, picking up 95 yards on 21 carries, a healthy 4.5-yard per carry average. Quarterback Marcus Mariota did have 26 of those yards. Either way, it does show the Raiders can be run on, and the Jets have to be successful with their ground game, as the passing game can’t make up for it.
Keep Raiders’ Passing Game Under Control
With Raiders quarterback David Carr having wide receivers Amari Cooper (5 catches, 62 yards, one touchdown against Tennessee) and Michael Crabtree (6 receptions, 83 yards), plus tight end Jared Cook (5 receptions, 56 yards), as weapons to throw to, the Jets’ defensive backs will have their hands full. This will be a huge game for the rookie safeties, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, plus corners Mo Claiborne and Buster Skrine to prove they can hang with a talented opposing offense. If they can’t keep Cooper and Crabtree in check, not to mention the ever-present tight end the Jets defense can’t seem to ever cover, the game will be a blowout. The Jets need an interception or two to keep this game within striking distance. As we saw last week against Buffalo, with the Jets’ intercepting a Tyrod Taylor pass in the end zone, one turnover can keep a team in the game. The Jets probably need at least two Sunday.
Defensive Line Must Take Over
Carr won’t be able to complete any passes if the Jets’ defensive line creates havoc in the backfield, and that’s what they have to do. The Jets have talent up front, with Leonard Williams and Mo Wilkerson as potential Pro Bowl players, but the entire group has to play up to that level, something they didn’t do last week. In fact, the defensive line looked more like a second-team defense going against the first-team offense in a preseason game than what is supposed to be one of the league’s best. The Jets must control the line of scrimmage, limit the damage done by Lynch on the ground, and get to the quarterback. Wilkerson especially has to play better this week, as he did not have a good game in the opener. It’s a tall order, sure, but if the Jets can control the line of scrimmage and are able to run the ball on offense, they could shock everybody.