As far as Week 1 games go, this is as close to a "must-win" as it gets for the Jets. Their daunting schedule over the next two months—which includes matchups against the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots—gives the Jets little room for error in the few games that they will be favored in.
While the Jets will be favored in this matchup, they must be careful not to look past this rejuvenated Raiders team. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr has injected new life into the offense since tearing apart the Seattle Seahawks in the final week of the preseason.
Recent developments surrounding the Raiders' quarterback situation makes this game a bit more difficult to pick than it was three weeks ago. Let's take a look at what the experts are saying about the Jets' chances to starting the season 1-0 (according to ESPN, FOX, CBSSports and Bleacher Report).
|Matt Bowen||Bleacher Report||Jets|
|Mike Freeman||Bleacher Report||Jets|
|Michael Schottey||Bleacher Report||Jets|
|Matt Miller||Bleacher Report||Jets|
|Chris Simms||Bleacher Report||Jets|
|Mike Tanier||Bleacher Report||Raiders|
|Neil Greenberg||Washington Post||Jets|
|Bleacher Report, ESPN, CBSSports, FOX Sports|
With a few exceptions, the Jets are virtually a unanimous pick to emerge victorious—for good reason. The Jets have a superior player listed at just about every position on the roster. CBSSports' Pete Prisco predicts that the Jets' talent along the defensive line, along with travel logistics, will be the deciding factors in the game:
Opening on the road is always tough. Opening across the country is even tougher. Opening against a good defensive front with a rookie quarterback is really tough. Geno Smith will do enough on offense to take it.
The Raiders will be the only team starting a rookie quarterback in Week 1, so I expect the Jets to blitz. And blitz. And blitz and blitz and blitz. Nose tackle Sheldon Richardson—who might be the best in the game at that position—and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson had 15 sacks, 14 quarterback hits and 56 hurries between them last season.
While the Raiders have added some young and talented players to both sides of the ball, they are simply either too young and unproven or too old and ineffective at key positions that will prevent them from having a meaningful season for the umpteenth year in a row.
Offensively, the Jets have the better roster from head to toe. Carr gives the Raiders hope that he can elevate the play of this otherwise average group, just as they showed against the Seahawks last Thursday.
|Jets vs. Raiders Offense|
|Position||Jets Starter(s)||Raiders Starter(s)||Edge|
|Quarterback||Geno Smith||Derek Carr||Jets|
|Running Back||Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson||Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden||Draw|
|Left Tackle||D'Brickashaw Ferguson||Donald Penn||Jets|
|Left Guard||Brian Winters||Gabe Jackson||Raiders|
|Center||Nick Mangold||Stefen Wisinewski||Jets|
|Right Guard||Willie Colon||Austin Howard||Draw|
|Right Tackle||Breno Giacomini||Khalif Barnes||Jets|
|Tight End||Jeff Cumberland||David Ausberry||Jets|
|Wide Reciver||Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley||Andre Holmes, Rod Streater||Jets|
In terms of position groups, the only place where the Raiders can compare to the Jets is at running back, assuming that Darren McFadden is healthy and Maurice Jones-Drew looks as explosive as he did in the preseason. He had 6.1 yards per carry with 5.7 yards after contact according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Even at receiver, a longtime problem area for the Jets, Rex Ryan's squad has an advantage. Eric Decker is a better pass-catcher than any other player on the field. While mostly used as a slot receiver, Jeremy Kerley has been one of the few productive players on the Jets offense since he was drafted in 2011.
The wild cards are the two young quarterbacks, particularly Carr. There is simply not enough evidence to determine whether or not Carr is truly capable of having a special rookie season or if last Thursday's offensive was just an anomaly.
Factoring into the edge the Jets have at the most important position is the defenses they will be playing against. Carr was successful against Seattle's starters, but things won't get any easier going against a Jets front in a game that has real meaning to it.
|Jets vs. Raiders Defense|
|Position||Jets Starter(s)||Raiders Starter(s)||Edge|
|Defensive End||Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson||Lamarr Woodley, Justin Tuck||Jets|
|Defensive Tackle||Damon Harrison||Pat Sims, Antonio Smith||Jets|
|Inside Linebacker||David Harris, Demario Davis||Nick Roach||Jets|
|Outside Linebacker||Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples||Khalil Mack, Sio Moore||Raiders|
|Cornerback||Darrin Walls, Antonio Allen||Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers||Raiders|
|Safety||Dawan Landry, Calvin Pryor||Tyvon Branch, Charles Woodson||Raiders|
The defensive side of the ball is a bit more even. While the Jets have the upper hand closer to the line of scrimmage, the Raiders have a slight edge in all aspects of pass defense, from outside linebacker to the secondary, even with former first-round pick D.J. Hayden on the PUP list.
The Jets' defensive secondary concerns is a theme that will follow them throughout the season. Starting the season against Carr will be a good early test to see just how much of a drop-off Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls are from the players who were expected to start the season, Dee Milliner and Dimitri Patterson.
These two defenses are comparable, but the Raiders are dependent on some unproven players like Khalil Mack to play major roles for them.
Based on their 2013 records, this game looks like a shoo-in victory for the Jets—but taking a closer look at these two rosters reveals that these teams are not on completely different planets in terms of talent level.
The Raiders are still long away from serious contention, but they have made significant roster improvements over the offseason now that they are finally starting to pull away from the overbearing contracts from the Al Davis era. Time will tell just how well general manager Reggie McKenzie was able to utilize his new-found resources, but there is a strong chance that the 2014 Raiders will be a much-improved squad over the 2013 group.
Again, the X-factor in this game will be the performance of Derek Carr. If Ryan can do what he usually does to rookie quarterbacks, the Jets are in for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.
Rich Cimini @RichCimini
Rex Ryan-coached teams are 7-3 vs. rookie starting QBs. Three losses: Manuel, Wilson and Tannehill. #nyj9/2/2014, 6:48:27 PM
On the other hand, if Carr makes the Jets defense look like the preseason version of the Seahawks, the Jets could find themselves on upset alert by mid-afternoon on Sunday.
Advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required).