Week 8: Top 10 Jets, Raiders to watch
Return to relevance
The Raiders are entering foreign territory on Sunday afternoon. Their Week 8 contest against the New York Jets is one of the best NFL matchups of the weekend, garnering interest outside home markets. The Raiders are 3-3, with the New York Jets just ahead of them in the Wild Card chase. While it’s way too early to talk playoffs, a victory here would help should the Raiders play themselves into position down the road. It’s been a long time since the Raiders have been relevant, and a victory over the Jets could extend this status through the season’s middle stretch.
10) ILB Curtis Lofton, Raiders
The veteran inside linebacker works primarily in the Raiders 3-4 base defense, which allows him to play to his strengths. He’s a stout run stuffer and a physical presence in the middle, something the Raiders will need to slow a Jets running game that counts among the NFL’s best. Lofton has been solid in the red zone, and is looking forward to a physical matchup where fundamental tackling is a must.
9) DE Leonard Williams, Jets
The No. 6 overall is Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated rookie defender, thanks to 25 quarterback pressures as a 3-4 defensive end. He is a solid interior rusher and run stopped who fits perfectly into the Jets system. There may be extra motivation for Williams, a lifelong Raiders fan whom the Silver and Black bypassed in the 2015 draft for Amari Cooper. The Raiders should get Williams’ best on Sunday.
8) CB DJ Hayden, Raiders
The 2013 first-round pick had his best game as a professional on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Hayden has progressed as the season’s worn on, and is gaining confidence by doing so. Hayden has provided good coverage but needs to continue tackling well and making plays on the ball. He has struggled some against bigger receivers, so his work against Brandon Marshall will be key in the Raiders’ defensive effort.
7) QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets
The veteran doesn’t get much respect on the quarterback hierarchy, but the journeyman has given the Raiders fits. Fitzpatrick is a mobile quarterback who manages games well and can make big plays when required. He has only been sacked four times this year, and has been efficient with 22 passes over 20 yards. The Raiders must contain him in the pocket and keep him from converting on third down and accenting a run-first offense.
6) TE Clive Walford, Raiders
The rookie third-round pick has made an impact without a high volume of touches. The Raiders hope to get Walford more involved, as they have done the past few weeks. They’re missing a solid receiving presence in the middle of the field. Adding one would diversify this passing game and make it tough to stop. Walford is a big target and can create mismatches depending on coverage. Walford is inspiring trust in coaches and quarterback. More production against the Jets will help that cause.
5) CB Darrelle Revis, Jets
The Jets cornerback has long been considered the NFL’s best at the position. While some have said he’s lost a step, but that doesn’t mean his ranking has dropped much. He can takeaway one side of the field playing press-man coverage, and will attempt to slow rookie standout Amari Cooper. That might happen most of the time, but just one or two mistakes could spell trouble against Cooper a big play waiting to happen. He’s pretty good, but Cooper might be the best receiver Revis has faced this year.
4) C Rodney Hudson, Raiders
This week has been a Rodney Hudson love fest in the East Bay. The elite-level center earned serious street cred in Sunday’s victory over the Chargers, when he charged 25 yards down field, went horizontal and laid out a safety that helped Amari Cooper reach the end zone. The high-priced free-agent signing has been a strong contributor this season, and must be at his best against the Jets. They have a creative, physical pass rush, and Hudson must play smart and tough to handle tough opposition.
3) DT Dan Williams, Raiders
The free-agent signee has been excellent in the middle of this defense, especially since the Raiders went with a nose tackle on a regular basis. Williams is a strong defender with 10 of his 14 tackles as stops of two yards or less. The Jets will try to run up the middle often, but Williams could combat that and help the NFL’s No. 3 run defense live up to an increasingly positive reputation.
2) RB Chris Ivory, Jets
Ivory is a tough, physical rusher seemingly in the midst of a career year. He has 500 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and four touchdowns already this season, and runs with a violent style that wears opposition down. The Raiders have to fight fire with fire, using physicality to made every yard difficult. Slowing the Jets run game should be Oakland’s primary concern. In order to do so, Ivory needs to get put in check.
1) QB Derek Carr, Raiders
Running against the Jets is hard work. The Patriots new it last week, which is why Tom Brady threw it 54 times in 66 plays. That might have to be a Raiders recipe for victory on Sunday, especially if Latavius Murray can’t work through a tough Jets defense. That puts weight on Carr’s shoulders to work downfield with short passes – Michael Crabtree would play a big role in that exercise -- while finding time to work the ball downfield. Carr has been steady, avoiding major mistakes. That must continue if Carr is solely responsible for offensive production.