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NFL Preview - N.Y. Jets (3-3) at Oakland (2-4)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - So much for an east coast bias.
Were the NFL really the northeast-centric league some claim, the New York Jets would surely have been provided a suitable time-zone patsy upon whom to vent collective frustration this week.
A trip to see old friend Eric Mangini along the lake in Ohio, perhaps.
Or maybe a jaunt to Florida's sunny, Gruden-less Gulf Coast.
Instead, another dose of historically bad medicine is being foisted upon a reeling Gang Green.
Rather than a close-to-home remedy for a sickening three-game losing streak, Rex Ryan and Co. will board planes for a 2,900-mile jaunt across three time zones to face a unit that's traditionally been the bearer of bad tidings for them - the Oakland Raiders.
Including playoffs, the Jets are 6-14-1 on the road against the Raiders.
In 2008, Oakland beat them, 16-13, when kicker Sebastian Janikowski drilled a 57-yard field goal - the longest OT kick in league history - to earn Tom Cable his first win as head coach.
Not exactly what the North Jersey doctor ordered.
Of course, it was just seven days ago when the current edition of the Raiders - led by wildly underachieving quarterback JaMarcus Russell - was a popular consensus choice as the worst team the NFL had to offer in calendar 2009.
But that was before a breakout upset last week, in which the Silver & Black held a predicted NFC powerhouse - Philadelphia - to just three field goals in a grinding 13-9 win before a few less than 50,000 fans by the bay at McAfee Coliseum.
New York, meanwhile, was doing a little suffering a few thousand miles to the east.
Faced with a mediocre punching bag and a chance to end a two-game losing streak, Ryan and Co. plummeted into the "Same Old Jets" abyss of years gone by, enduring six interceptions and a botched overtime field goal in a 16-13 loss to division rival Buffalo at home in Giants Stadium.
Widely lauded as the savior just a few weeks earlier, rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez tossed five of the INTs, squandering a franchise-record 210 rushing yards by Thomas Jones and making the team's 318 rushing yards the most by a losing side since 1944.
The perpetually-fickle New York Daily News - which gave Sanchez "A Star is Born" headline treatment after a Week 1 win in Houston - branded him as "Broadway Schmo" following the Bills loss on Monday.
It piled on Wednesday with beat reporter Rich Cimini, who wrote that "Ryan believes the Jets are a today team - at 21 positions, he's right - but they have a tomorrow quarterback. He knew there would be growing pains with Mark Sanchez, but Ryan inflated expectations with his big talk, telling everybody he was going to compete for a championship and grow a franchise quarterback at the same time.
"Why take a go-for-broke mentality, buying expensive free agents and trading for Braylon Edwards, if you're going to leave yourselves vulnerable at the most important position? Makes no sense. It's like buying a Porsche with cheap tires. What's the point?"
The breathless Gotham honeymoon is over, or so it seems.
And if the losing streak hits four this week, stay tuned for the first signs of an ugly divorce.
The Raiders hold a 20-14-2 lead in their all-time regular season series with the Jets, including the aforementioned 16-13 home victory in overtime when the teams met in Week 7 of last season. The Jets won each of the previous three meetings, including a 23-3 home win in Week 17 of the 2007 campaign and a 27-24 overtime decision in Oakland in 2003.
In addition to the regular season series, the teams have split four postseason meetings all-time. The Jets defeated the Raiders in the 1968 AFL Championship and in a 1982 AFC Second-Round Playoff. Oakland returned the favor by downing New York in a 2001 AFC First-Round Playoff and a 2002 Divisional Playoff.
The most infamous contest played between the two franchises took place on Nov. 17, 1968, when the Raiders came from behind in the waning moments to defeat the Jets, 43-32, in Oakland. NBC-TV ill-advisedly switched programming to the movie "Heidi" with 1:05 to play, just after the Jets had taken a 32-29 lead. The tilt has gone down in NFL legend as the "Heidi Game."
The Raiders' Cable is 1-0 in his career against the Jets, while New York's Ryan will be meeting both Cable and New York for the first time as a head coach.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Now armed with a subpar 56.7 passer rating, Sanchez makes his first professional start in the state where he was born, raised and starred as a collegian at USC. He's completed 85-of-163 passes for 1,035 yards, five touchdowns and 10 interceptions through six games. Jones, whose 481 yards are now third in the AFC, went for 159 yards on 24 carries against the Raiders last season and stands tied for second in the conference with six touchdowns. He averages a robust 104.9 yards per game when given 20 or more carries. Backfield mate Leon Washington recorded a season-high 99 yards alongside him last week. On the outside, Edwards has been limited by a quadriceps issue this week, but is expected to play Sunday. Also impacted by injuries, wideouts Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith did not take part in Wednesday's practice. Edwards has averaged 15.8 yards per catch in his career against the Raiders, while tight end Dustin Keller has racked up 13.4 yards per catch so far this season.
Though their overall 365.5 total yards per game average isn't stellar, the Raiders have been more successful harassing opposing quarterbacks as of late, registering six sacks against the Eagles last Sunday and posting 10 sacks in the last three games. Former Patriot Richard Seymour and ex-Cowboy Greg Ellis are two veterans along the front line with 124 career sacks between them. Seymour has 2� sacks in his last three games against New York and Ellis had two against the Jets while with Dallas on Thanksgiving Day 2007. Also, defensive end Trevor Scott tied a career-best with two sacks against Philadelphia. In the backfield, safety Michael Huff shares the AFC lead and is third in the NFL with three interceptions, while linebacker Kirk Morrison leads the team with 58 tackles.
WHEN THE RAIDERS HAVE THE BALL
Russell was a workmanlike 17-of-28 for 224 yards and a score against the Eagles, though he did throw two interceptions to push his season count to six, against just two touchdowns. Overall, he's 68-of-149 for 830 yards and a 51.0 passer rating. In last year's defeat of the Jets, Russell was 17-of-30 for 203 yards, a TD and an 88.6 rating. He spent much of last week turning and handing the ball off, with running back Justin Fargas carrying 23 times for 87 yards and fill-in Michael Bush rushing six more times for 22 yards. Both men's workloads increased in the absence of Darren McFadden, who's out with a knee injury that required surgery. Bush has a TD in two of his three career starts and Fargas's 87-yard output was a season-high. Through the air, tight end Zach Miller continues to shine. He gained 139 yards against the Eagles, including an 86-yard touchdown that was the longest by a tight end in Raider history. Since 2007, he leads the team with 121 catches and 1,576 yards.
Needless to say, the Jets and their "swagger-licious" defense have taken big hits in the last three weeks, a far cry from Ryan's offseason bravado. Though Buffalo was held to only 16 points, it continually converted on crucial third- down plays with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, much like first-year starter Chad Henne had with the Dolphins a week earlier in Miami. Overall, New York has allowed a pedestrian 303.3 yards per game, and, more surprisingly, has generated just five sacks from an aggressive, blitzing scheme. Linebacker David Harris leads the team in both tackles (57) and sacks (2�), while five players are tied with an interception apiece. Most ominous out of the Buffalo debacle was the ACL injury suffered by mammoth run-stuffing tackle Kris Jenkins, who will require surgery and is lost for the season.
Against a defense that's iffy against the run - and in the wake of a QB meltdown last week - both Jones and Washington figure to get touches, and points, for the Jets. Sanchez probably won't throw so much, which puts a lesser-light tag on Edwards and Cotchery, as well as tight end Keller, this time around. The Jets' defense isn't a bad play, until Russell proves that he's turned a corner and can curtail his mistakes. For the Raiders, the split running duties shrink the value of both Fargas and Bush, leaving Miller as the only real high-end selection. The Oakland defense is a hunch play if Sanchez's issues continue, and Janikowski is never a bad kicker bet.
Even the most stubborn Rex Ryan supporter took a kick to the gut with last week's loss to Buffalo, so a west coast trip with a clearly addled quarterback isn't exactly a recipe for renewed support. New York is better on paper and should win, but the same tag clearly was in place last week...on its own home field.
This week, with a long road trip and chaos swirling, it doesn't figure to get better.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Raiders 21, Jets 20
10/22 11:55:11 ET
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