Unbeaten Jets begin challenging trek with visit to Raiders
Road trip, schmoad trip.
Though it's probably not preferred to an equal stretch in the friendly confines of newly-christened MetLife Stadium, it's not as if the New York Jets are immune to three-game road jaunts.
In fact, head coach Rex Ryan and his band of green men have gone back-to-back- to-back in January for two straight seasons, winning two playoff games each during consecutive trips to the AFC Championship Game as a Wild Card.
The Jets start up a string of three straight regular-season bouts away from home on Sunday, when the club visits the Oakland Raiders in a Week 3 matchup.
Of course, Ryan and Co. would prefer a few more regular-season wins regardless of the site to help assure a home date or two come the postseason this time around.
New York is 11-5 on the road in the regular season under Ryan, and 4-2 in the playoffs.
"We're not intimidated by any surroundings that we go into," Ryan said.
The Jets, who'll visit Baltimore and New England after this Sunday's game in Oakland, won't return home until they host the Miami Dolphins on Monday, Oct. 17.
"We've just got to focus on Oakland, and that's it," Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. "We have to make sure we come in and prepare for what we need to throughout the entire week and get ready for a long trip."
New York opened the regular season with a dramatic 27-24 win over Dallas on Sept. 11 and went to 2-0 with a 32-3 rout over visiting Jacksonville last Sunday.
They've also won in the absence of their signature ground-and-pound attack, having averaged just 73 rushing yards per game through two weeks. Last time the Jets faced Oakland, a 38-0 win over a 5-11 Raiders squad in 2009, the Jets ran for 316 yards and threw the ball just 16 times.
The Raiders have allowed 127.5 yards per game on the ground through two weeks, 27th in the NFL.
"I thought it was slightly better [versus Jacksonville], but I'm not concerned with that," Jets guard Brandon Moore, whose offensive line colleague, center Nick Mangold, may not play after he suffered a high ankle sprain last week, said of his team's rushing struggles. "That'll get better as the season goes. We'll be OK."
Oakland lost to Buffalo, 38-35, last week and gave up the decisive touchdown on fourth down, when a breakdown left Bills receiver David Nelson open with 14 seconds to play.
"Any time you lose, especially in that fashion, it's very disappointing," Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. "But one game doesn't make the season. You move forward. I've been in many games in my career, and that's one of the most heartbreaking ones I've had. You move forward, and you've got to get better as a team."
The Raiders were sixth in the AFC in total defense after giving up 322.8 yards per game in 2010. They're 25th in the league this season and have given up an average of 395.5 yards in two games.
"You can't take a play off, you can't take an opportunity off, you have to finish everything you do," head coach Hue Jackson said. "It's tough in the NFL. We have a good group of men in that locker room who, hopefully, have learned a very valuable lesson that we can learn from this and move forward."
Offensively, Oakland's Darren McFadden has 222 rushing yards and eight receptions through the first two weeks.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again, Darren McFadden is one of the most exciting players in this league, bar none," Jackson said. "There's greatness in Darren, and I expect him to play that way as the season goes."
McFadden faces a challenge on Sunday, however, as the Jets have allowed only one 100-yard rusher in their last 25 games.
The Raiders possess a 20-15-2 lead in the overall regular-season series between the teams, though the Jets have prevailed in four of the past five matchups and came through with the previously-noted 38-0 dismantling of Oakland at the Coliseum in the most recent test, which took place in 2009. The Raiders registered a 16-13 overtime victory at home over New York the previous season and have won eight of their last 11 games as the host in this set, which includes a pair of playoff triumphs.
These clubs have split four all-time postseason meetings, with Oakland downing the Jets at the Coliseum in a 2001 AFC Wild Card Playoff and a Divisional Round clash in 2002. New York topped the visiting Raiders in the 1968 AFL Championship and delivered a 17-14 upset win in Los Angeles in the Second Round of the 1982 AFC Playoffs.
The most infamous encounter between the two franchises took place on Nov. 17, 1968, when the Raiders came from behind in the waning moments to defeat the Jets, 43-32, in Oakland. The contest is best known as the "Heidi Game" due to NBC-TV's ill-advised decision to break from the broadcast in the Eastern Time Zone to show the movie "Heidi" with the Jets holding a 32-29 lead with 1:05 left to play.
Ryan is 1-0 against Oakland during his tenure as the Jets' head coach, while Jackson will be facing both Ryan and New York for the first time as a head man. The two worked together on the Baltimore Ravens' staff for the 2008 season, with Ryan the defensive coordinator and Jackson the quarterbacks coach.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
The Jets are 8-1 when quarterback Mark Sanchez has two-plus touchdown passes in a game. He had a 107.0 passer rating in his only meeting against the Raiders back in 2009. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson has 2,017 rush yards and 22 rush touchdowns against the Raiders, his most versus any opponent. The ex-Charger needs 56 receiving yards to surpass Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas (4,458) for 15th-most by a running back in NFL history, and needs just one touchdown to become only the third player in NFL history with 160 total, joining Jerry Rice (208) and Emmitt Smith (175). Running back Shonn Greene had career-bests in rushing yards (144) and touchdowns (2) against the Raiders in that 2009 rout and posted his first rushing score of the season last week. In his last meeting with the Raiders, which came while with Pittsburgh in 2009, wide receiver Santonio Holmes had eight receptions for 149 yards with a touchdown. Fellow wideout Derrick Mason needs 83 receiving yards to become the 18th player in league history to reach 12,000, while tight end Dustin Keller (101 yards) had his third career 100-yard game last week. The Jets are 3-0 in such games.
Seymour has 6 1/2 career sacks against New York and cornerback Stanford Routt had his first interception of the season last week. Second-year middle linebacker Rolando McClain leads the Raiders with 11 tackles.
New York is seventh in scoring (29.5 ppg) and 21st in total yards (321.5 ypg), with the Raiders placing in a tie for 26th in scoring defense (29.0 ppg) and stand 25th in yards allowed (395.5 ypg).
WHEN THE RAIDERS HAVE THE BALL
In his past four starts, Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell has completed 80- of-122 passes for 814 yards with five touchdowns, one interception and a 94.8 passer rating. Campbell recorded his ninth career 300-yard passing game with a 323-yard effort against Buffalo last week, and is 4-1 as a starter at home for Oakland. The Raiders average 160.5 rushing yards per game so far in 2011, second-most in the AFC behind Buffalo (190.0 ypg), and has an NFL-high four rush touchdowns this season. Since 2010, McFadden averages 130.9 yards from scrimmage per game, second-best in the NFL behind Houston's Arian Foster (132.9). He tied a career-high with seven catches last week and had two touchdowns (1 rushing, 1 receiving) against the Bills. Running back Michael Bush had his first rush touchdown of the season in last week's game and rookie wide receiver Denarius Moore had a career-high five catches for 146 yards (29.2 average), including a 50-yard touchdown, against Buffalo.
New York's defense had an NFL-best four interceptions in Week 2, with Cromartie posting his fifth career game with two-plus picks. Cornerback Darrelle Revis, meanwhile, had an interception in his last game against the Raiders, while linebacker Calvin Pace had a career-best three sacks versus Oakland in the teams' 2009 meeting. Fifth-year defensive end Mike DeVito leads the Jets' front line with eight tackles and a sack.
Oakland's scoring offense is eighth in the NFL (29.0 ppg) while the team ranks 12th in total yards (371.5 ppg), while the Jets are third in scoring defense (13.5 ppg) through two games and eighth in yards allowed (296.5 ypg).
KEYS TO THE GAME
As mentioned earlier, the Jets will try to return to their rushing roots against a Raiders team that's been vulnerable to opponents' ground games.
With the Jets likely to line up to shut down McFadden, Oakland could lean hard on quarterback Campbell and his assortment of speedy deep threats, led by Moore, at the wide receiver position.
Prior to a pair of road games against perceived conference elites in Baltimore and New England, the Jets must maintain their focus on the always-difficult cross-country trip.
The Jets are a more sound and tested team than the Raiders, but they've had occasional problems with long trips through the years. McFadden will challenge New York's defense to hold him down, which as mentioned, could open up some routes for Campbell. It'll be up to Sanchez to stick with Greene and Tomlinson on the ground and keep his mistakes to a minimum in a difficult venue, which the young quarterback has shown he can do in the past.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 21, Raiders 20