Another week, another primetime matchup coming up for the New York Jets this time on the road. The Jets will head west to face the Las Vegas Raiders in their first primetime road test this season. Two teams heading in different directions, the Jets coming off a loss while the Raiders have new life under interim head coach Antonio Pierce.
Today, let’s take a look at the Jets’ keys to victories, x-factors, and biggest matchups to watch.
6 Notes Heading Into Jets vs Raiders
Jets Offensive Key: Short Leash
The Jets offense has been abysmal and many would say this is putting it nicely. It is so bad it made head coach Robert Saleh “plead the 5th” when asked about Zach Wilson‘s struggles this season. It’s a historically bad offense that if things continue early on Sunday changes at the most important position need to be made.
Before the bye week, Wilson was showing some progress. However, since the bye week came and gone, Wilson has regressed significantly back to his old ways in the last two weeks. It took a miracle to beat Tommy DeVito and the Giants who had -9 passing yards and on Monday Night against the Chargers the Jets were flat-out embarrassed on offense. While pieces around Wilson deserve blame too, it ultimately starts and ends with the QB.
One of the sad realities about the entire situation is Zach Wilson currently has two career touchdown passes to star wideout Garrett Wilson in 17 games. That is the same amount as Mike White and Joe Flacco who both are no longer on the team. This leaves Jets fans asking the same question, are we watching last year all over again?
Right now yes. If the Jets don’t make a change soon the team will lose belief in Wilson and the coaching staff and quit. Even if it is bringing in Tim Boyle, try something, Wilson right now is one of if not the worst QBs in football it can’t get much worse. Another slow start on Sunday and a change needs to be made.
Jets Defensive Key: Keep Davante Adams Cold
Even though the Jets might end up trading for Aaron Rodgers‘ favorite target Davante Adams in the offseason, right now the focus is on containing him. The Raiders as a whole have dealt with a lot of adversity this season specifically on offense. Adams has not gotten the targets he wants. One of the best receivers in the game has been grounded. A big reason for that has been the revolving door at QB.
After signing with Las Vegas to play with college teammate Derek Carr which only lasted one season, things have taken an unexpected turn. Adams this year has played alongside Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer, and rookie Aidan O’Connell. After a huge performance in week three where Adams had 13 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns, he has not been the usual dominant Adams and is only two weeks removed from a one-reception game against the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football.
He will now look to build strong chemistry with O’Connell who will also look to get the ball to Adams’ way. The Jets need to keep Adams cold because when he gets the targets and opportunities he is arguably the best receiver in the game. Star cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed will be tasked with keeping Adams in check on Sunday Night.
Jets Offensive X-Factor: Receivers Not Named Garrett Wilson
As mentioned earlier, Zach Wilson has struggled but the offensive struggles aren’t 100% on him, other players around him have not held up their end of the stick, specifically at wide receiver. Outside of star wideout Garrett Wilson the other receivers have not produced and have not been able to get open consistently.
While Garrett Wilson did suffer a fumble early in Monday’s contest he still ended the game leading the team with 7 receptions for 80 yards. The next closest wide receiver to those numbers were Xavier Gipson who had two catches for 32 yards. One player who specifically needs to improve is Allen Lazard. On Monday, he only had two catches on six targets for 18 yards with costly drops and penalties.
To put it plain and simple Lazard has not come close to living up to the $44 million contract he signed this past offseason. Along with those ugly numbers Lazard has not been able to create separation to get open consistently. Other players the Jets need to get involved more is Gipson and many fans want to see Jason Brownlee get a chance. Someone outside of Wilson needs to step up or it’s only going to get uglier on offense.
Jets Defensive X-Factor: Defensive Line
What a season it has been for the Jets’ defense especially up front, making some of the best QBs in the game lives miserable. Most recently it was Justin Herbert on primetime holding him to just 136 passing yards and a 53.3% completion percentage. Along with this the Jets were able to sack Herbert 5 times. Walking out of MetLife with another dominant performance up front and in the secondary.
This week the Jets will get their first test against a starting rookie QB this season as they head to Vegas to face the Aidan O’Connell-led Raiders. As usual, it is important to put pressure on quarterbacks especially young quarterbacks to get them startled early on. O’Connell in his first career start was sacked seven times six of those from Khalil Mack. Since then, however, he has not been sacked in his last two appearances.
Getting pressure up front on O’Connell early Sunday Night forcing him into mistakes toward the Jets’ secondary would go a long way for the Jets. Gardner and Reed aren’t the most friendly cornerback duo for quarterbacks.
Jets Offensive Matchup To Watch: Jets Offensive Line vs Maxx Crosby
Another week, another injury up front for the Jets on the offensive line. This week it is Billy Turner who is dealing with a finger injury and will be out on Sunday. Along with this, Duane Brown will miss this week as he is still not ready to return to game action. The Jets’ offensive line starters are up in the air and whoever is out there will have their hands full against one of the league’s best pass rushers, Maxx Crosby.
Last week the Jets faced a Chargers pass rush that included Joey Bosa and Mack and it didn’t end well for New York. Wilson was sacked 8 times. Bosa and Mack combined for 4.5 of those eight sacks. Expect Mekhi Becton to stay at LT, but the other positions are the question. The Jets could slide Max Mitchell to RT and insert Xavier Newman into RG. Or put Newman at center and shift Joe Tippmann over to RG. Either way, they have their work cut out for them.
Crosby this season is tied for second in the NFL in sacks with 9.5, he is also tied for the league lead in tackles for loss with 13. His 91.7 PFF Grade is the highest on the Raiders and currently leads the NFL in pressures with 53. The Jets will have their hands full, especially with an offensive line dealing with so many injuries up front.
Jets Defensive Matchup To Watch: Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed vs Davante Adams
Does it get any better than this? With three stars going at on primetime this matchup in the secondary is a must-watch. The Jets defense has been lights out all year and a big part of that is the secondary. Statistically, the Jets have the best CB duo in the game with Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed. Both rank inside the top ten among corners in PFF Grade.
Reed currently leads all cornerbacks in the NFL with a PFF Grade of 86.9. Behind him is Gardner who ranks sixth among cornerbacks with an 81.7 PFF Grade. They have shut down some of the league’s best quarterbacks and wide receivers. This week another opportunity presents itself.
As mentioned earlier, Davante Adams has had a bumpy season due to the inconsistent quarterback play he has gotten. However, he is still a huge threat who can break through at any moment because he still is one of the best wide receivers in the game. His 51 receptions for 573 yards lead the Raiders. Get your popcorn this matchup is going to be fun.
Prediction: Raiders win 17-13