These two teams met in week 14 last year, which resulted in a Jets 37-27 victory. In that game, Geno Smith threw for 214 yards, Chris Ivory had 109 rushing, and Antonio Allen added a punt block for a touchdown for good measure. Matt McGloin was the Raiders starting quarterback and Marcel Reece was the starting running back. It has been an offseason marked by change for both teams.
The Raiders selected Derek Carr from Fresno State in the second round of this year’s draft. Despite trading for Texans castoff Matt Schaub in the offseason, a combination of a Schaub elbow injury and Carr’s strong preseason has given the rookie the nod for week one.
The Raiders almost seem caught between the middle of wanting to rebuild while making a push for the 2009 playoffs. They’re committing to the rookie quarterback but are surrounding him with a solid amount of average veterans. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew was signed as a free agent and expects to see the bulk of the carries over Darren McFadden. The receiving core is not much better. Former Packer James Jones was brought in and will add to a group that includes Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, and Andre Holmes.
The defense is especially dicey. More veterans were brought in, but do they have anything left? Former Giant Justin Tuck and former Steeler Lamar Woodley hope to bolster the pass rush. Rookie Khalil Mack will start at OLB in a 4-3 scheme. Charles Woodson and Carlos Rogers highlight the secondary additions.
The Jets offseason has been well documented. Safety Calvin Pryor was drafted in the first round to aid the secondary. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson was also signed but released after going AWOL. Corner Dee Millinier will miss week one with a high ankle sprain, leaving converted corner Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls as the week one starting corners.
The offense needed a huge talent upgrade and got some. In is former Broncos wide out Eric Decker. Say what you want about Manning “making” Decker, but he is known as one of the best route runners in the league who seems especially determined to prove he was more than a creation of his former quarterback. Chris Johnson should improve the speed of the offense as a whole and is a threat catching the ball out of the backfield that the Jets have never had.
As for the game itself, you would have to like the Jets odds of a Rex Ryan defense going against a rookie quarterback. Gang Green Nation had a good breakdown on how rookie quarterbacks have fared in Rex’s tenure with the Jets. A brief summary of that article: it is not well. It’s fair to have concerns with the Jets secondary, but I would still expect Rex to have his corners press Oakland and take away easy completions for the rookie.
There’s also the potential for the Jets front seven to feast. Last year the Jets had the best run defense in the NFL and I wouldn’t expect that to change. More consistent pressure on the quarterback from the outside, specifically from a player like Quinton Coples, could give the Jets the best defense in the league. We’ve seen it before: when the Jets front seven starts rolling and the crowd gets behind them, they are unstoppable (just ask Tom Brady). Carolina is a good example of a defense that doesn’t have a very talented secondary but masks that with a dominant front seven. That is what the Jets need to do week in and week out.
When it comes down to it, all eyes will be on Geno Smith. Smith looked really sharp at the end of 2013 and has had a strong offseason thus far. The addition of Eric Decker is going to be big for the offense. Decker has also been a pain against Oakland, tallying 27 catches in his past four games against them. I would also like to see the Jets run at Khalil Mack. Mack primarily played with his hand in the dirt in college and is adjusting to playing off the ball.
All in all, this is a game the Jets should win. The Raiders have lost their last 13 games in the Eastern Time zone and are starting a rookie quarterback. With no gimmies on the Jets upcoming schedule, taking care of business as the favorite week one is important for the season.