April 11, 2021

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Preview, predictions, what to watch for

4 min read
Preview, predictions, what to watch for

Costello’s Call

It would be premature to make any proclamations about the Jets turning their season around, but a win here would validate what they did in the last two weeks against bad teams. The Raiders are for real, but the Jets get them in this one as Sam Darnold carves up the Oakland secondary.

Jets 31, Raiders 28

Marquee matchup

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs vs. the Jets defense

The Jets have been on a roll against the run lately. They enter this game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 79.1 yards per carry. They shut down Saquon Barkley of the Giants two weeks ago and handled Washington’s Adrian Peterson last week.

Jacobs presents a different challenge. The rookie from Alabama is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 923 and has scored seven touchdowns. He is the leading candidate for the Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Raiders’ offensive line is one of the best the Jets have faced. It will be strength against strength in this matchup.

If the Jets don’t tackle well, this game won’t go well for them.

“It’s a pretty big challenge,” Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “Josh Jacobs is like another Saquon. Josh Jacobs is his own man himself. He’s a hell of a running back. He can do a lot of stuff. In this offensive scheme, they find ways to get him the ball and get him in looks that he can make you pay for it if you don’t have the right edge on the backside.”

4 Downs

Adams attack: Safety Jamal Adams has played like a man possessed the past two weeks. He had three sacks against the Redskins to bring his total to six this season, two shy of the NFL record for defensive backs. Adams said this week he is gunning for that record.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr can present more problems than rookies Dwayne Haskins and Daniel Jones did in the past two weeks, but the Raiders are worried about No. 33.

“He’s a real problem for us,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s a great blitzer. He plays with a linebacker mentality. He’s a train wreck. He’s a hard man to pick up in blitzes, he has great range, he’s a very good tackler, he can cover when you ask him to and he’s a premier effort player in all of football. I saw him run down [Jaguars RB Leonard] Fournette, which is maybe the most impressive effort play I’ve seen this year. I admire him a lot. I wish I had six of those.”

Streaking Sam: Sam Darnold has bounced back after a rough stretch in October to string together three good games. Even in the loss to the Dolphins, Darnold improved and has been in command in the past two wins. He has completed 65.6 percent of his passes with six touchdown passes and two interceptions in the three-game stretch.

“He’s done a good job of just focusing on one week at a time,” coach Adam Gase said. “If something bad happened the week before, the focus for him has been fix it, make sure it doesn’t happen again, try to avoid that same mistake twice. He does do a really good job of resetting. Once we start talking about the next team, he just puts it in the past.”

Tight squeeze: Gruden and Carr could cause some problems for the Jets by targeting their tight ends. Darren Waller leads the team with 56 catches for 666 yards and three touchdowns. Foster Moreau has four touchdowns himself this season. The Jets are banged up at linebacker, which could be an issue in this game.

“[Waller’s] a guy that we’ve got to account for,” Gase said. “We have to do a good job really against that whole group. Those are matchup issues. You get caught in man and you’ve got a guy that’s really good as a receiver on a guy that’s not used to covering one-on-one, that’s an issue.”

Third things first: The Jets know they need to keep their offense on the field in this game. The Raiders offense is explosive and can exploit the holes the Jets have at cornerback and linebacker. For the Jets, their best defense is a good offense in this game.

In order to control the clock, the Jets are going to have to be better on third down than they have all year. They are the worst third-down team in the NFL at a 25.4 percent conversion rate. If the Jets can’t stay on the field, the Raiders may put up points on them.


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