This is the definition of a trap game. The home team is favored by nearly two touchdowns. The away team is considered to be one of the worst teams in football. Surely the Oakland Raiders are going to maul the New York Jets like lions hunting gazelle, right?
But a game still has to be played. Anything can happen. Derek Carr could get hurt again. Khalil Mack could get thrown out of the game for knocking Josh McCown into the shadow realm. Amari Cooper could get assaulted by angry pigeons before kickoff.
Let’s be real, the Raiders should absolutely destroy the Jets. At least on paper. While Oakland’s defense has had its issues, mainly in pass coverage, the Jets have no significant receiving threats, the biggest being Jermaine Kearse, who has only been with the team for around a month. McCown looked old and decrepit last week against the Buffalo Bills (does anyone seriously think he deserves to start more than Colin Kaepernick?).
Their running game is largely mediocre as well. Matt Forte and Bilal Powell aren’t bad, but they aren’t especially intimidating either. Mack could terrorize their offensive line, and third-round rookie Eddie Vanderdoes looked pretty solid in both run and pass support versus the Tennessee Titans. If the Raiders defense can’t shut the Jets down, there are serious problems.
The Jets defense is marginally better than their offense, mostly owing to their two stud defensive ends, Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams. However, it’ll be tough for the duo to take on the Raiders’ excellent blocking unit by themselves, including the newly extended Donald Penn. The trio of Marshawn Lynch, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington could be in for a big day.
Carr and company could also just attack the Jets through the air all day. New York’s starting secondary, consisting of corners Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne with the rookie safety duo of Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams, can be productive, but there’s little-to-no depth behind them. Between Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jared Cook, Carr will have a plethora of options in the passing game.
Injury wise, the Raiders have the Jets trumped too. Starting cornerback Sean Smith is questionable with a neck injury, but first-round rookie Gareon Conley will finally make his debut after battling a shin injury throughout the preseason. Safety Keith McGill and fullback Jamize Olawale are also questionable after missing the Titans game, but they both practiced throughout the week.
On the other hand, the Jets have a host of wounded players, though on the plus side, not many are significant contributors. Six players have already been ruled out: safety Rontez Miles, offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison, linebackers Bruce Carter and Edmond Robinson and tight ends Jordan Leggett and Eric Tomlinson.
In spite of all that’s stacked against them, it is not out of the realm of possibility for the Jets to pull the upset here. The Raiders have their first primetime game of the season next week against the Washington Redskins, so they could get caught looking ahead instead of focusing on the task at hand. But if the universe makes any sense, the better team should win this one. Then again, crazier things have happened.