Last Sunday, we watched the New York Jets fall flat on opening weekend against their AFC East rivals, the Buffalo Bills. The Bills covered the nine-point spread, 21-12, and the Jets gave fans little in the way of inspiring moments or players.
And again, that was the Bills. Week 2 is when the Jets’ long, long season really begins, as they travel west to face the Oakland Raiders, the first of many playoff-caliber teams on their schedule.
Unless the Raiders and Jets finish in the same place in their respective divisions this year, they won’t meet again in 2018. This means this is likely the last time the Jets will visit the Black Hole in Oakland before the Raiders pack up and move to Las Vegas. The Jets are 17-22-2 all-time against the Raiders, but 6-14-1 against them on the road. It triggers memories of some famous Jets-Raiders matchups, including the 2001 season finale in which John Hall’s 53-yard field goal gave the Jets a last-minute playoff berth and, of course, the infamous “Heidi game.”
Most recently, the Jets played them Nov. 1, 2015 and lost 34-20. That game was memorable for a few reasons: It was the game Ryan Fitzpatrick left with a thumb injury and was replaced by a redemption-seeking Geno Smith, who threw for 265 yards and two TDs upon entering. More importantly, it was a superb day for second-year quarterback Derek Carr, who threw four touchdowns on a Jets’ defense that, by all accounts, was pretty good in 2015.
Carr is one of the several reasons the Raiders are a sexy pick in the AFC, not only to win their division but to advance as far as the Super Bowl. Carr threw two touchdowns in the Raiders’ win over a pretty good Tennessee Titans team in Week 1, one to star receiver Amari Cooper. The fourth-year QB effectively spread the ball around between Cooper, Michael Crabtree and tight end Jared Cook.
Then there’s the Marshawn Lynch factor. The unretired running back who hails from Oakland will be playing in his first Raiders home game of the regular season. He looked in top form last week when he took most of the team’s carries and averaged 4.2 yards per run. On this week’s Jet Fuel Podcast, we discussed whether Lynch or Cooper would be a bigger concern for the Jets, and more of us actually fell on the side of Beast Mode. New York allowed 190 rushing yards in Week 1, the most by any team in the league – and rushing defense is supposed to be the one consistent strength the Jets have.
Even keeping Oakland out of the red zone might not be enough for New York. With Sebastian Janikowski out with a back injury, the Raiders’ new kicker, Giorgio Tavecchio, made all four of his field goal attempts against Tennessee, including two 52-yarders.
Have I painted a bleak enough picture for this game yet? That’s just looking at the strength of the Raiders’ offense. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are still looking for their first sacks of the year, and they might rack up multiple against the Jets’ weak offensive line.
What can the Jets do to prepare for this game? Perhaps not enough in one short week of game-planning and adjusting. There are too many mismatches, particularly the Jets’ front seven against Lynch and the Raiders’ offensive line. Rather, this game might be preparation for the Jets’ future schedule. After getting a weak slate Weeks 3-5 against the Dolphins, Jaguars and Browns, New York will have to face both Super Bowl LI teams, New England and Atlanta, as well as Tampa Bay, Carolina, Kansas City, Denver and New Orleans later on.
Anyway, strap in for a pretty ugly affair, folks. The Jets’ final trip to the Black Hole will be one to forget, not one to remember.