ALAMEDA — As the Oakland Raiders (4-8) prepare for a trip to New York to face the Jets (5-7), there is only one goal at hand.
A win at the Meadowlands is the only thing that can keep the team’s playoff hopes alive. A loss would all but guarantee elimination, something that the team has muddled through since 2002.
The Jets aren’t considered the most formidable of opponents, though head coach Dennis Allen and quarterback Matt McGloin opine to the contrary. McGloin said:
“(The Jets defense) shows a lot of looks. They’re gonna play a lot of coverages. They have a lot of different fronts, great blitz packages, so we definitely have our work cut out for us.”
McGloin (62-for-109, 799 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in three starts) has shown admirable form, displacing Terrelle Pryor on the depth chart. Sunday, though, he may face more challenges than he has to date.
Just as other rookie quarterbacks have experienced, there is now enough game tape on McGloin for teams to properly game plan against McGloin’s strengths and weaknesses.
Bolstered by a healthy offensive line that had previously not been full and robust, the chances could lean in the Raiders’ favor.
During the Thanksgiving day loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Oakland’s line didn’t give up a single sack and McGloin was only hit two times. Though the team was unable to find a second half rhythm, their first half play was nothing short of dynamic.
The run game was tremendous, fueling openings for the pass and wearing down the Dallas line. It’s something that Jets defensive end Moe Wilkerson says is his primary concern:
“Those guys run the ball real well. They have some guys on the outside that catch the ball and run down the field real well. We have to make sure to do our job and clog up the running lanes and make sure the ball isn’t thrown over our heads.”
New York has been very successful in stopping the run, ranking first in the NFL, though they are 25th against the pass.
On paper, McGloin and his receivers will need to intensify the passing game to be successful.
Key Matchup: Rod Streater vs. Dee Milliner
Jets rookie first-round pick cornerback Dee Milliner has been forced to face the difficulties of playing on an island in the NFL. Throughout the game, Milliner will need to cover one of the more physical receivers in the West.
Milliner has the speed to keep up with Streater, though the second-year wideout has the advantage of being able to create tough angles. Ed Reed will be there for support, though Streater can outrun Reed if given the opportunity.
Streater will be the go-to-guy in third and long situations, especially if he is given this matchup. Expect throws to Milliner all game long, regardless of who he is up against.
Despite their 4-8 record, the Raiders have shown great improvement in their stick-to-itiveness and displayed levels of Moxie rarely seen in the past decade.
You can call it growing pains when flaws are exploited by teams like the Eagles and Chiefs, though that early-season Raiders team isn’t the one that will play Sunday.
Darren McFadden might be healthy enough to play. Jared Veldheer is back. Rashad Jennings continues to show out. Streater continues to prove his mettle, whether it be winning the battle on jump balls or not being bumped off his route.
These reasons and more signal that Oakland’s playoff hopes are reasonable. The remaining schedule, though, includes divisional games against Kansas City, San Diego and Denver.
No longer porous and downright terrible, the West is now the AFC’s strongest division. Wins over all three teams are not probable, according to Las Vegas, though anything is possible on any given Sunday.
Taiwan Jones, who converted from running back to cornerback during the offseason, may be converting to running back once more. He was taking second-team reps at the position during Wednesday’s practice. It could be a sign that the team’s longest tenured back, Darren McFadden, might not play Sunday. … Left Tackle Jared Veldheer did not practice Wednesday. Veldheer’s camp is currently discussing a contract extension with the Raiders, and he has expressed interest in staying in Oakland. … Quarterback Matt McGloin is currently on pace for what would equate to a 4,261 yard season. If he can continue that pace, it’d seem the Raiders might not consider adding another quarterback to the roster during the offseason. His toughest test could come during Week 15 when Oakland hosts Kansas City.