The Oakland Raiders are preparing to face the most difficult three-game stretch of their season. The frustration that lingers from their tough loss at Buffalo must be harnessed and delivered to the Jets with ferocity.
After the Jets, the Raiders will face the Patriots and the Texans. It's painful that they enter this three-game stretch at 1-1 instead of 2-0. They had no business dropping last week's game to the Bills.
The Raider defense needs to recover rapidly from the beating it took against Buffalo. No roster moves have been made to improve the struggling secondary. It would be tough to imagine vastly improved play from a unit that was torched by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
It's good that the offense has appeared to take a step forward from their impressive numbers last year, as the Raiders will need to score a lot of points to win some of their games this year.
The passing game is looking to elevate and balance out the dominant rushing attack from a year ago. Jason Campbell seemed to be in control of the offense and fought valiantly, as did the entire offense, to rescue the team from a disappointing defensive performance.
Alas, they rescued defeat from the jaws of victory and now must play mistake-free football for the next three weeks to avoid a 1-4 start to their season.
A key ingredient in the success of the offense has been improved play from the offensive line. They have proven themselves capable of keeping Jason Campbell upright.
Their improved play has allowed Campbell to look downfield and find receivers for big plays. This may prove difficult against a stout defensive unit like the Jets'.
The emergence of Denarius Moore has helped to turn a weakness of the past into a possible strength for the Raiders. When Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy return, the Raiders will have a formidable arsenal of weaponry at the wide receiver position.
When Moore, Ford and Murphy are coupled with Schilens, Heyward-Bey and Hagan they will not only have talent, but depth.
Yet there is something that has been missing from the Raiders' offensive attack, and it will aid not only the passing game but the ground attack, as well.
This week the Raiders look to get Kevin Boss back from injury. He is a key offseason addition that may prove vital to an Oakland offense that has been lacking at the tight end position in his absence.
At 6'6" and 255 pounds, Boss is a big-bodied target in the passing game, and his agility is surprising for someone his size. He is not a speedy tight end, but he has reliable hands and is a major upgrade over backups Brandon Myers and Richard Gordon.
Boss will also have a profound impact on the rushing attack. He has always been known as an above-average blocker, and his strength will greatly benefit an Oakland ground game that was stymied in the second half of the Buffalo game.
Boss returns at a critical time for the Raiders, as their young wide receivers will face one of the best cornerback tandems in the entire league.
Darrelle Revis is one of the very best in the league and it's usually a long day for any wide receiver who draws his coverage. The Raiders can try to attack Revis, but many have tried and few have succeeded. It's not impossible but the risk of a turnover is always there.
How will Oakland fare in their next three games?
Cromartie is much more susceptible than Revis and he can have flat out lapses in concentration that cost his team points. He is susceptible to getting burned for big plays or making them.
With an emphasis on mistake-free football, Jason Campbell will be looking to find Boss in mismatches against linebackers and safeties. Boss could be instrumental to the Raiders moving the chains and keeping drives alive.
They would have an advantage if they could spread the field, possibly splitting Marcel Reece out wide. Beyond Revis and Cromartie, Kyle Wilson is the only corner who may present an issue.
This could be difficult for the Raiders with Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy out with injuries and Darrius Heyward-Bey being questionable. Heyward-Bey will likely play, but it's yet to be determined how much his knee is bothering him.
The Raiders could also look to gain mismatches by motioning Marcel Reece, Darren McFadden or Taiwan Jones out of the backfield. Any one of them matched up with a linebacker or safety would be an advantage for the Raiders.
I also look for them to use screen passes once again to slow the Jets' pressure and get the ball to their play-makers in space to let them use their abilities.
If Boss looks 100 percent in his return, it could allow the Raiders to make a much needed roster move. When Boss returns the Raiders will have four tight ends. That number could easily be trimmed to three.
I know that Brandon Myers is an Al Davis guy, but I could see him being the odd man out if the team wants to be as strong as possible. With Boss out, Myers struggled to get open and he is not above average in any aspect of his game.
The Raiders could look to keep Richard Gordon as he is a better blocker than Myers, and get rookie David Ausberry into the mix as a vertical weapon at the tight end position.
Ausberry, the converted wide receiver from USC, showed impressive speed and ball skills throughout training camp and the preseason. If he can translate that play to the regular season the Raiders could be one of the strongest offenses in the league.
The way I see it, the return of Kevin Boss will allow the Raiders' offense to take yet another step forward and possibly leap into the elite level in the league. It appears as though that is exactly what they will need to be to out-pace their next four opponents.