Editor’s note: With the Raiders set to travel cross-country to square up with the Jets at MetLife stadium during Sunday’s early window, I had the pleasure of asking Gang Green Nation’s deputy editor MacGregor Wells some questions about the Jets and the upcoming matchup.
Q: The Jets have quietly been elite when defending the run this season. Currently, they place at No. 2 in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA rankings. How have they been able to neutralize opposing rushing attacks?
I think there are two major factors to the Jets success against the run. First, their personnel along the front seven is suited much better to stopping the run than stopping the pass. The interior defensive linemen, lead by second year surprise Folorunso Fatukasi, are all plus run stoppers, but poor pass rush guys. The same goes for the outside linebackers, Jordan Jenkins and Brandon Copeland, who are adequate pass rushers but excel against the run. Throw in star safety Jamal Adams and the Jets have talent at every level specifically suited to stop the run. In addition, the Jets are extremely sound at the fundamentals in the run game, missing fewer tackles than all but three NFL teams. Put the talent suited for the run game together with the fundamentally sound tackling and you get an elite run defense.
Q: How do you expect Adam Gase to attack the Raiders defense? Are there any matchups he can exploit?
The Jets can’t run the ball, though lord knows they try. So any success the Jets have on offense is usually through the air. The Raiders defense is a good matchup in that regard in that they have struggled to defend against the pass. I expect a fairly heavy dose of slot receiver Jamison Crowder, running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Ryan Griffin to test the middle of the Raiders pass defense, which has had some problems. If the Jets have success in the short passing game, look for the Jets to then take some deep shots to Robby Anderson, who has had a quiet season but is always a threat to make a big play deep. The success, or lack thereof, of the Jets attack will likely depend on whether the Jets bad offensive line can give quarterback Sam Darnold enough time to exploit the Raiders pass defense. If Darnold has time he can do some good things. If he is under constant pressure, look for Darnold to make some critical mistakes in terms of costly turnovers.
Q: Who is an under-the-radar player on offense and defense for the Jets who more people should be discussing this year?
On offense the guy is probably slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who is quietly having a career year on the way to a possible 1,000 yard season. On defense the unheralded guy having a great year is second year defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi, who, after barely seeing the field in his rookie season, is now one of the best run stuffing defensive tackles in the NFL, while also doing a decent job generating pressure on the quarterbacks, though that isn’t showing up on the sacks tally quite yet.
Q: With a plethora of holes up and down the roster, what do you expect the Jets offseason checklist to look like?
Offensive line, offensive line, and more offensive line. The entire line is in need of replacement, and though it may take more than a year to completely turn over the starters, new Jets general manager Joe Douglas has made it clear offensive line will be a big priority. I also expect the Jets to make cornerback, edge rusher and wide receiver priorities, all areas where the Jets have major deficiencies. Probably not big priorities are interior defensive line, safety, inside linebacker, tight end, running back and quarterback, all areas where the Jets are fine going forward, assuming Sam Darnold pans out.
Q: What are your predictions for this game? And how do you project the Jets to finish the season?
With the proviso that I am not exactly great at the whole prediction thing, and I am obviously biased as a Jets fan, I think the Jets defense will do a good job shutting down Josh Jacobs and force Derek Carr to beat them through the air. How Carr fares against a suspect Jets pass defense will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game. On offense I think the Jets will not be able to run the ball, but will have some success throwing against a suspect Raiders pass defense. The Raiders are the better team, but the long trip east, the early game time, and some favorable matchups for the Jets make for a close game which the Raiders pull out late. Raiders 24, Jets 23.
As far as how the Jets finish, the Jets have games against the Raiders, Dolphins, Bengals, Steelers, Ravens and Bills remaining. The Jets have almost no chance against the Ravens. I think they will also lose to the Bills, Steelers and Raiders. Dolphins and Bengals provide good chances for Jets wins. So, the Jets go 2-4 the rest of the way to finish the year at 5-11. And if any of these predictions don’t work out, my account was clearly hacked.