Five Raiders to watch in Week 12: Why Josh Jacobs so vital vs. Jets

Five Raiders to watch in Week 12: Why Josh Jacobs so vital vs. Jets

The Raiders are in a tough spot. They’re rare road favorites Sunday, expected to beat the New York Jets -- who are more talented than you think -- after flying across the country to play a game when most of you are eating breakfast.

Oh, and there’s a massive, AFC West showdown on the horizon.

So, you know, stay focused and all that. Taking care of business is essential for Jon Gruden’s Silver and Black, but it won’t be a stroll through Central Park in Week 12. They’re going to have to earn this one.

Here are five players essential to beating the Jets and extending their already prolonged winning streak.

RB Josh Jacobs

Jacobs is ever-so-close to reaching 1,000 rushing yards. It seems he couldn't care less. The Alabama product shrugs off his entries in the Raiders record book, focusing more on making proper reads and maximizing yardage on a particular play.

He must do so consistently Sunday to produce against a stingy Jets front ranked No. 1 in run defense. That unit plays well collectively, with no clear weakness to exploit. The Raiders offensive line and fullback Alec Ingold must do their part, but Jacobs’ reads and rushing choices will ultimately determine the run game’s success.

If Jacobs gets going against such stout opposition, the Raiders will notch another win. It’s that simple to say, much harder to do.

DL Dion Jordan

The Oregon alum played just 14 snaps last week, rushing from the interior in obvious passing situations. His length, power and athleticism changed the way the defensive front was blocked, providing opportunities for himself and those around him. He did all that but a few days after being signed and eligible to play after a 10-game NFL suspension.

That’s impressive, and the Raiders will want to expand Jordan's role wherever possible as the season continues.

Jordan will be an X-factor in this game and others, and his pairing with either Maxx Crosby or Clelin Ferrell could free the edge rushers to make big plays. He instantly upgrades the Raiders pass rush and is a player other must account for. On Sunday, Jordan could help create havoc against a ho-hum Jets offensive line that can be exploited from the inside.

TE Darren Waller

Opponents work hard to take Waller out of the game plan. That’s easier said than done. Waller’s size, speed and versatility make him an attractive option the Raiders are determined to include, as we’ve seen with high target counts even when he’s blanketed in coverage. Waller said this week an attacking mindset and proper reads are key to the ball coming his way.

The Jets have been tough on tight ends, but Waller must find a way to stay involved to keep the Raiders offense running strong. He knows that and is taking this challenge head-on. Waller is an elite talent and must steadily produce -- even against stout opposition -- to keep the Raiders on their winning track.

S D.J. Swearinger

The veteran safety led the Raiders in tackles last week against the Cincinnati Bengals just days after signing. He was primarily active on first and second down, with Curtis Riley entering in obvious passing situations. Riley has struggled in those scenarios, and it will be interesting to see if Swearinger becomes a three-down player in this game or down the road.

We know for certain Swearinger can be an impactful run defender and intimidator in the middle. We know how badly he wants to succeed and help the Raiders' playoff push after a month-plus away from football. He has immense talent that must be harnessed and deployed appropriately. The Raiders must keep this defense going strong against quarterback Sam Darnold and rusher Le’Veon Bell, players far more dangerous than their stats suggest.

[RELATED: Mullen showing star potential amid Raiders' playoff push]

WR Hunter Renfrow

Third-and-Renfrow. It’s not just a fun thing say. Quarterback Derek Carr often looks to Renfrow as a chains mover, someone reliable in tense moments. The fifth-round pick has seen more targets in recent weeks, especially when the Raiders are in a bind. He has come through time and again when others are covered, being the safety blanket Carr has longed for from the slot.

He needs to continue his productive run and find soft spots in zones, especially with safety Jamal Adams roaming free and often rushing the passer. That can leave the Jets exposed and vulnerable to quick passes and runs after the catch, both of which are Renfrow’s forte. Steady production from him when other options are shut down or with the Jets focused on the run will be key to the Raiders producing consistently enough to win Sunday.

Tom Brady says he's 'open-minded' about uncertain future with Patriots

Tom Brady says he's 'open-minded' about uncertain future with Patriots

When you think about the New England Patriots, you don't see Steve Grogan, you picture Tom Brady. Aside from six Super Bowl rings for Brady and a trophy case full of accolades and records, there could be one big difference between the two quarterbacks. 

Grogan was a late-round draft pick who spent his entire 16-year career as a Patriots QB. Brady famously was a late-round draft pick who has spent his entire 20-year career as a Pats QB. But that could change. 

With rumors swirling that Brady might move on from New England this offseason, the 42-year-old addressed his future in his weekly interview with Westwood One Sports Radio on Sunday. 

"It's only been a couple weeks and I've had a lot of time with my family the last couple weeks and just been decompressing from the season," Brady said. "I've said earlier I'm open-minded about the process, and at the same time I love playing football and I want to continue to play and do a great job. I'm looking forward to what's ahead.

"Whatever the future may bring, I'll embrace it with open arms."

Brady is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career on March 18. The Athletic's Jay Glazer recently called the Raiders going after Brady with their move to Las Vegas a "no-brainer." And Brady was spotted in Sin City on Saturday night talking to none other than Raiders owner Mark Davis at UFC 246. 

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Adam Hill spoke with UFC president Dana White -- who's a friend of Brady -- Saturday night after the fights, and White said a Raiders-Brady pairing absolutely "has legs." 

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is set to make $18.9 million next season, but the Raiders would save $16.5 million and take a cap hit of just $5 million if they trade or release Carr prior to June 1. 

[RELATED: Brady offers Jimmy G advice before NFC Championship Game]

Brady wouldn't come cheap, even at his age, though he certainly would create an insane amount of buzz and sell boatloads of tickets in the Silver and Black's first season in Las Vegas. Raider fans might also finally have reason to forget about the Tuck Rule, 18 years after the fact. 

Buckle up, things could get interesting. This is Las Vegas, after all.

Tom Brady to Las Vegas Raiders 'has legs,' UFC's Dana White believes

Tom Brady to Las Vegas Raiders 'has legs,' UFC's Dana White believes

Given the uneven performance Derek Carr had in the Raiders' final season in Oakland, it wouldn't be surprising if the team brought in another quarterback to start for the franchise' in its first season in Las Vegas.

Whether it's veterans like Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota or draft prospects like Tua Tagovaiola and Justin Herbert, there's no shortage of possibilities for Jon Gruden to consider as Carr's replacement and/or backup.

By the looks of the Connor McGregor-Cowboy Cerrone UFC fight Saturday night, it appears there's another name on the list, and it's the biggest one possible.

Yep. That would be Raiders owner Mark Davis in the white, and six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady in the black leather jacket on the right. If that doesn't get the rumor mill swirling, the following context might do the trick.

According to Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, UFC president Dana White -- who is a friend of Brady's and already is a suiteholder at Allegiant Stadium -- believes a Brady-Raiders pairing isn't all that farfetched. 

Carr is set to make $18.9 million in base salary in 2020, so it's difficult to see a scenario in which he and Brady are on the same team. Brady might be the best QB of all-time, and simply put, he's not taking a major pay cut. However, the Raiders would save $16.5 million and take a cap hit of just $5 million if they trade or release Carr prior to June 1, which would appear to be a precondition for bringing Brady to Sin City.

Of course, if the Raiders did that, it would be under the assumption that Brady could regain some of his three-time MVP form -- which, if you watched him in New England this past season, is nowhere near a certainty. In fact, one could argue that Carr is a superior QB to Brady right now, thus making that hypothetical move both illogical and unnecessary. While throwing for nearly an identical number of passing yards in 2019, Carr posted a far superior completion percentage than Brady (70.4 percent to 60.8 percent) and averaged 1.3 more yards per pass attempt. Of the 30 quarterbacks that qualified for ESPN's Total QBR rating -- which values the quarterback on all play types on a 0-100 scale adjusted for the strength of opposing defenses faced -- Carr was ranked ninth (62.4), while Brady was ranked 17th (53.7)

[RELATED: Mayock gives glowing review of Carr's 2019 with Raiders]

One would imagine that Gruden knows what he has in Carr, and considering his lukewarm-at-best endorsement of the Raiders' incumbent QB at the conclusion of the season, it wouldn't be surprising if the team opted to go in another direction. Brady certainly would provide plenty of excitement -- and would sell plenty of tickets -- but it would also be a big gamble on the Raiders' part.

Given it's Las Vegas, maybe that's the way to go.