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NFL Preview - Jacksonville (1-4) at Oakland (1-4)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Oakland Raiders' best effort in recent weeks was ill- timed.
But if coach Dennis Allen's team can replicate the performance this week, it may turn out better.
The Raiders established season-highs in both total yards and rushing yards a week ago in losing a three-point game to the league's lone unbeaten team -- the Atlanta Falcons -- but they'll get another crack with a less-successful foe this weekend when the Jacksonville Jaguars pay a Sunday visit.
Oakland was beaten, 37-6, at Denver on Sept. 30 in a game quarterback Carson Palmer studiously referred to as a "good, old-fashioned butt-whupping," but the team and the passer rallied against the Falcons and pulled ahead with a late drive before losing when Matt Bryant hit a 55-yard field goal with one second left.
"We've got to learn how to finish and win those types of games," Allen said. "That's what our job is. This is a production business. It's about winning and losing, and we weren't able to get it done (Sunday)."
The Jaguars took a 41-3 drubbing at the hands of the Chicago Bears on Oct. 7 and licked their collective wounds during last week's bye.
"I think the answers are in this building,"' coach Mike Mularkey said. "I think they are in that locker room. They are in that staff room. They're in the meeting rooms, on the practice fields, during our preparation. I think the answers are all here, and we've just got a find a way to get those to transfer over to games so we can play complete games and play like we're capable of playing."
Jacksonville has struggled to make things happen on offense with second-year passer Blaine Gabbert, placing last in the league in total offense (241.2 yards per game), passing (142.8 yards per game) and scoring (13 points per game) through five weeks. Additionally, the five games have yielded just one rushing touchdown.
On defense, the Jaguars are 25th in the league with 27.6 points allowed per game and only three sacks.
"It's been the same thing for five years," running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "Obviously, we're not working hard enough. I don't know. We're just not playing well right now. We have to figure something out. No one here is going to save us."
Oakland's managed just four sacks in five games, but could be boosted with the presence of linebacker Aaron Curry. The fourth overall pick by Seattle in 2009 could return to practice after offseason knee surgery, but his status for Sunday remains in doubt.
"We're going to get him out there and let him run around, see where he's at and begin the evaluation process to figure out if and when he's going to be available on the roster," Allen said.
Oakland used rookie linebacker Miles Burris against a pass-intense Atlanta offense, but the scheme may be unnecessary against a Jacksonville offense that's yielded only eight pass completions of 20 or more yards and receiver drops on 12.8 percent of possible catches.
The Raiders have allowed opponents to convert 49.3 percent of third-down tries, but Jacksonville is sixth-worst in the league with a 31.3 conversion rate. Additionally, Jones-Drew's 4.9 yards per carry average is among the best of his career, but Oakland's defense held Atlanta to only 45 yards on 15 carries.
Jones-Drew ran for 101 yards and a TD in Jacksonville's 38-31 win in the series in December 2010. Oakland's Darren McFadden scored three times and had 209 scrimmage yards in that game, but has a career-worst 3.2 yards per carry this season with just two touchdowns.
The Jaguars have won four of five games in the all-time series. In the last game in Oakland, Jacksonville won, 13-6, in January 2005. Coach Mike Mularkey is 0-2 in his career against the Raiders, while Oakland's Dennis Allen has never faced the Jaguars.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The nickel defense that was employed by the Raiders last week to combat Matt Ryan probably won't be needed to deal with Gabbert, but that scheme did manage to keep Atlanta's Michael Turner in check and may allow more freedom to mix things up against the Jaguars.
Expect a variety of blitzes and nickel and dime schemes based on specific sequences. If Oakland can stop the run with six in the box, it won't need more unless the goal is to harass Gabbert on a specific play. Looming large for the Jaguars is the mandate to get a lead or at least stay close into the second half, so Gabbert won't be forced into a throw-to-win situation.
Jones-Drew has 408 yards on the season, but 177 of them came in one game.
"We've gotten down pretty quickly in games, and we've had to throw the ball to get back in it, so that's why you see 12 carries or 13 carries," he said. "Our game plan is to stick to what we do best and be balanced on offense."
"They're definitely going to run the ball downhill," Oakland cornerback Michael Huff said. "They've got their play-action, and they're going to take their shot. We still have to hold up on the back end, but they're definitely more of a run team. We've got to make sure we're stout in the run game."
While Jones-Drew has long been one of the NFL's best, the rate at which the surrounding talent has dwindled is alarming - and Gabbert's shown only traces of signs that he's capable of reversing the trend. On the other side, the Raiders have assembled a bevy of inconsistent talent and Palmer has so far seemed a good veteran fit as signal caller. After last week's buoying performance, expect the Oakland talent level to be decisive here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Raiders 27, Jaguars 14
10/18 11:47:46 ET
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