Raiders will struggle against the underrated Jaguars

The Raiders can’t drop this one.

Oakland faces the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, and that’s not an easy win. They have several playmakers on either side of the ball, and the Raiders defense will have their hands full with quarterback Blake Bortles and the Jaguars’ hurry-up offense that will likely feature a lot of two tight end sets.

The Raiders have been awful in tight end coverage over the last two seasons, and even though Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce didn’t post big numbers last weekend, it was evident that he could have, as he was left wide open several times.

And outside of the tackle box, there are two highly underrated receivers, Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson.

Hurns was the most efficient receiver in football last season, and Robinson was a premier deep threat for a team that liked to let the ball go. Though the Jaguars offense hasn’t posted prolific numbers so far this season, a few key statistics stand out.

Hurns is averaging 15 yards per catch, with 20 receptions through five games, and though he’s yet to score a second touchdown for the season, the numbers say that it’s coming soon.

Hurns scored touchdowns in seven straight games last season, and presents a threat that most NFL fans may not fully appreciate.

Jacksonville also boasts the league’s seventh-ranked run defense, and fourth best passing defense, and are a worthy opponent for one of the NFL’s top offenses.

In the initial SFBay season preview, I rated this as a win. The thought was that the Raiders could prey on the Jaguars inexperience, though Oakland has proven they can stop little defensively, and the Jaguars have proven they at least have the power to stymy Derek Carr and the Oakland offense.

I’m not so sure the Raiders will be competitive in this one, now, and though there are reasons that Oakland can run away with this one — specifically the leaky Jaguars offensive line that has surrendered 14 sacks this season in only five games — it will all depend on how well safeties Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson perform.

Those two will be the players to watch, with a passing attack with hardly limited upside, and a solid 1-2 rushing punch of T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory.

Preventing big plays and forcing turnovers is the name of the game in general, but the Raiders could get blown out if that doesn’t happen Sunday.

Final prediction

The Raiders drop this one, and Hurns and Robinson both find the end zone, while tight end Marcedes Lewis outperforms counterpart Julius Thomas due to some over-emphasis covering the latter player.

Oakland’s offense also gets stopped short, and their mediocre third down percentage (36.1, 24th in the NFL) becomes a major reason they can’t answer back.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.