Oakland Raiders Week 3: 3 Keys to Victory over the New York Jets
If this slideshow presentation was on the New England Patriots or the Green Bay Packers, it would need one of those old-school jailhouse rings to hold all of the keys to victory. The average reader would get to slide 3,495 before collapsing from dehydration.
Between screaming and recovering from screaming, the Oakland Raiders fans do not have the time for Sean O'Leary's Encyclopedia of Game Time Advantages. Besides, Oakland has a hard enough time finding the door to victory, let alone using a key to open it.
So, let's keep it simple. The New York Jets visit the O.co Coliseum this Sunday for a showdown with the Raiders. These are the three keys to Oakland winning its home opener, and improving to 2-1 on the season.
Gamble on Campbell
Jason Campbell is the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, a position that has proved itself as the kiss of death for many mortals. Shreds of talented, athletic football players with bright futures and dreams of Super Bowl celebrations now lay scattered in the Bay breeze, lifeless debris settling in the wake of expectations unmet.
The former Auburn Tiger and Washington Redskin is navigating choppy waters in the middle of a brewing storm with no map and one hand tied behind his back. This is the plight of Jason Campbell: to captain a cranky, stubborn ship out of the darkness and into clear skies.
In two efforts this season, Campbell has stood tall in the pocket, completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 428 yards and three touchdowns. While not facing the most intimidating pass rushes, the Raider’s offensive line has only given up one sack this season. These statistics, compiled on the road against the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills, are strides in the right direction for an offense that has fallen far off course since its last winning season in 2002.
To trust Jason Campbell against a stingy Jets defense would go against every instinct of the Raider Nation. But to observe this budding trend of offensive success, and acknowledge its potential for positive outcomes should have the crowd at O.co Coliseum betting on black for at least one possession this Sunday.
The New York Jets will be without All-Pro center Nick Mangold for at least 2 to 3 weeks, according to official reports. He sprained his right ankle in the first quarter of the Jets' 32-3 stomping of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Jets head coach Rex Ryan is in no hurry to risk further damage to one of his stars.
While an injury sustained early is better than one sustained late in a season, Gang Green will certainly miss the enormous presence of Mangold as it flies into Oakland to face the Raiders.
Undrafted rookie Colin Baxter is slated to start in his place.
Somewhere, defensive tackle Richard Seymour just spit up his seventh fully-loaded bean burrito.
Undrafted. Rookie. Center.
One player does not decide a football game, but sometimes the absence of a particular player makes all the difference, even if only on a mental level. Without Mangold anchoring the offensive line, Oakland needs to blitz, and soften the Jets' front five enough to pressure The Sanchize into a few mistakes.
Expect Quentin Groves and the rest of the Oakland defense to be ready to feed off of the front line's frenzy.
Opening Day at O.co
Opening day is already a distant memory for some NFL teams, but to the Raiders, the tailgate/violence/insanity is just heating up.
The Raiders opened the 2011-12 season with two road games, and now return home 1-1 to face the surging New York Jets. The last time the Jets entered the Black Hole, it shutout the Raiders, 38-0, which should dismiss even the slightest notion of home-field advantage existing anywhere in Oakland.
That was 2009, in Week 7 of a season in which the Raiders finished 5-11, and in the bottom three of just about every statistical category.
Still, apples are not oranges.
There is no more Tom Cable. No more JaMarcus Russell. No more 2009.
Bonehead mistakes and gorillas in top hats are still in order for any affair held at the O.co Coliseum, but with a new head coach in Hue Jackson, a more stable starting quarterback in Jason Campbell, and a dynamic, progressing running back in Darren McFadden, odds are the Raiders will at least score a few points in the 2011 version of this matchup.
Hope fades from silver to black quite quickly for Bay Area football fans. Week 3 is often spent mourning the death of joy from Week 2, and after giving up a 21-3 halftime lead in a losing effort to Buffalo Bills last Sunday, Raider Nation will not be jumping to conclusions should its team start off hot this week against the Jets.
This is why the Raiders do not need 47 keys to victory. It could have the key to the city and still find itself shut out at home. Oakland has enough to think about in getting from first down to second down without imploding or being fined.
For its best chance at victory, the Raiders need to keep it simple.
Utilize the consistency of quarterback Jason Campbell, and keep him protected as he scans down field for a streaking wide receiver Denarius Moore, or check downs to fullback Marcel Reece. Oakland has offensive threats, it just needs a quarterback stable enough to make good on them.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders may find its efforts rewarded for physical, grinding play that focuses on exploiting the Jet's weakened offensive line. With its secondary likely to give up a few big plays, the Raiders need to swarm, disrupt, and rattle New York into one or two costly turnovers.
Beyond players, coaches, and schemes, Oakland has to consider its intimidating, hard-nosed self as an important, if not equal, part of the equation as it seeks a win in its home opener. The Raiders are at the bottom of the league season after season in fan attendance. This is because they tend to be terrible.
The past haunts the Raider's present. A victory in the O.co Coliseum against the hated Jets may just represent that illusive key—one that unlocks a struggling franchise from the chain of expectations, allowing it a chance to finally exceed them.