Another weekend around the corner and that means another game for the Oakland Raiders. This game will be at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is a winnable game against a struggling opponent. If the Raiders can stop the run game and make Blaine Gabbert beat them with his arm they should be in line to get their second win of the season.
Oakland definitely is in dire straits right now and needs a win. They had a real tough opening schedule but its now softening up with the Jags and 1-4 Chiefs for their next two opponents. It would mean a lot to get this win Sunday and gain some momentum from their tough fought loss in Atlanta last week. They also need that momentum to gain speed for next week because the historic rivalry with the Chiefs always makes those games tough despite whatever the team's records might be.
The Jags live and die by their running game lead by the Bay Area native Maurice Jones-Drew. If they get going with MJD and Rashard Jennings in the run game it could become a ling day. If there is one area the Raiders have done surprisingly well in though it is their run D. They hope to continue that trend this week against the Jags.
MJD brings a rare combination of speed and strength to his short 5'8 frame. His hieght gives him an advantage as well because he can be hard to see behind the big bodies of their offensive line. He also has good hands out of the backfield so the Raiders will have to keep an eye on him every time he is on the field. Despite starting to get up there in age for a running back Jones-Drew is still very effective having already accumulated 408 yards rushing on 84 carries (4.9 ypc), although he hasn't been getting in the endzone much with only 2 TDs (1 rushing, 1 receiving).
As for the Jaguars passing offense its not as terrible as it was last year but its still isn't good. Jacksonville is ranked dead last in the NFL averaging only 142.8 yards passing per game and neither of their top two wide receivers have even caught a TD yet. Their top 5 draft pick Justin Blackmon only has 13 catches for 119 yards and their big money free agent Laurent Robinson hasn't been much better with 9 catches for 134 yards. Their top playmaker in the passing game has actually been Mercedes Lewis, their talented TE, who only has 14 catches for 116 yards but has 40% of Gabbert's TD passes with two. Scoring in general for the Jags has been tough, they also rank dead last in that stat averaging only 13 points per game.
Even with all those ugly stats I expect them to come out throwing the ball. They are coming off their bye week and their obvious weakness has been their passing game and so that's likely what they have been working on the past two weeks. They have a lot of money tied up in Blackmon and Robinson so they will be looking to get some return on that investment. I would especially watch out for Blackmon who was a highly touted draft selection out of Oklahoma State who they really want to get involved more. Hopefully we will see Michael Huff continue his nice performance last week by blanketing the young Blackmon this Sunday.
As for the Jaguars defense, well, that hasn't been good either. They rank 29th in total yards given up (23rd passing D, 30th rushing D) and are giving up 27.6 points per game. Unfortunately for the Raiders they have given up even more points per game than the Jags at a scary 29.6 points per game. Those averages point towards a high scoring contest this Sunday in the O.Co Coliseum.
With the Jags giving up a whopping 163 yards per game in rushing this is the perfect time for Darren McFadden to finally break out. Even though DMC's stats didn't really show a great game in Atlanta he actually did play pretty well. Now he gets to play a worse rushing defense and hopefully it will pay dividends for him. Lets face it, if he can't play well against a team that gives up 163 ypg then the chances of him playing well this year at all will drop dramatically. He needs to get his production going and this is his perfect chance to do that.
The Raiders passing offense also has a good chance of doing well in this game. They have accumated yards all year but its time to get the ball in the endzone. The Raiders are only averaging 17.4 points per game which is 28th in the league. This is the time to start increasing that number and the passing game will be vital for that cause. The Jags know that the Raiders want to get their run game going against their terrible rush defense and are likely to stack the box with defenders. That will open up the passing game more and especially create some big play possibilities. Carson Palmer has played well all year but he is not leading this team to enough points. This is the best time to change that, and at 1-4 it may be one of the last meaningful times to increase their scoring.
This is an opponent the Raiders really need right now. The Jaguars are one of the few teams that have struggled just as much as (if not more than) Oakland. The Raiders need to take advantage of this soft spot in their schedule if they expect to keep any meaning left in this season. The Broncos were 1-4 last year and went on to win the division. With the division leader only being 3-3 the Raiders are not dead yet. If they lose this game though that last shred of optimism I have will definitely go out the window.