Week 2- Win 1 ½

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(Photo Courtesy of zennie62)
Terrelle Pryor has understandably hogged the headlines this week with his performance against the Colts

by Jim Turvey

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Week 1 provided a moral victory, which we all know are worth about as much as Schrute bucks and Stanley nickels, but for a team that ranked near last in every power poll before the season it was a good sign. That’s why I’m calling this win 1 ½ because even though it won’t show up in the standings, their performance against the Colts shouldn’t go unnoticed. Raiders’ fans are hoping that moral victories can turn into an actual victories when the Jags come to town this Sunday. Let’s see what it would take to move to 1-1 on the year.

The Background

The Jags finished 2012 feeling about as good about themselves as Raiders’ fans at the end of 2012. The team finished 2-14, and didn’t seem to be going anywhere fast. Unlike Raiders’ fans who received a ray of hope in Week 1, however, the Jags got rocked to the tune of 28-2, with the Chiefs making the Jags’ offense look completely inept. The Jags have now not won since November 2012, and haven’t won a road game in nearly a year.

As far as recent history goes, the Jags and Raiders met in Week 7 last year, an overtime victory for the Raiders. In the game, the Jags lost both Blaine Gabbert and Maurice Jones-Drew to injury. This week they will be without Gabbert again – more to come on this – but MJD will be present in the run game. Chad Henne, who will be making the start for the Jags this week, was the man who took over for Blaine Gabbert, but there has been so much turnover on the Raiders’ defense since last year, looking at how he did doesn’t seem relevant to this week’s match up.

There is one other story line that has come up during that week for Raiders’ fans to keep an eye on. In one of the more bizarre ESPN headlines, Sebastian Janikowski and Jags’ kicker Josh Scobee have engaged in a he-said-she-said battle about Janikowski’s baseball team preference. I won’t go into a recap of the story because I’m sure most of you have already read it – it’s not often that Raiders’ headlines are on the front page of ESPN these days – but I will say it’s very telling, and not at all surprising, that this is a main story leading up to a Jags vs. Raiders Week 2 match up.

When the Raiders are on offense

The big story last weekend for the Raiders was Terrelle Pryor. He played better than almost anyone expected, and drew rave reviews from everybody to the point that some onion-type headlines were needed to quell the love-fest going on. In reality, Pryor does offer Raider Nation a more exciting quarterback option than we have had in a long time, but it would be nice to see more than one week before we get toooo excited.

In last week’s preview I highlighted the Raiders’ offensive line, particularly the LT spot which went up against Robert Mathis, as the match up that would determine the Raiders’ success. As it turned out, Khalif Barnes started at LT, was pretty Khalif Barnes-y (two penalties and general mediocrity), but Pryor managed to run around the Colts’ defense all day, and didn’t seem too worried about the pressure most of the time. The good news this week is that the Jags offer even less of a pass rush than the Colts do. Last season the Jags finished with just 20 sacks, the lowest total in the league, and the lowest season total since… the Jags in 2009. So while news that Menelik Watson likely won’t return for a month is bad news for Raiders’ fans in the long run, this week hopefully will provide a bit of an easier match up for the Raiders patchwork offense line.

For this week’s key match up, I’m going to go a little abstract – also known in parts as a cop out – and look at Terrelle Pryor vs…. Terrelle Pryor. Pryor came down pretty hard on himself after last week’s game, but the reaction of the general public and the media has been, as previously noted, quite positive. All week Pryor has been hearing about how he could be the hope for the Raiders; and now expectations are higher than ever now. We saw Pryor make some incredible plays last week, but he also made a couple big mistakes that young quarterbacks are prone to make. If Pryor can play within himself, and not let last week’s game get him either too high or too low, the Raiders should do fine on offense against a very poor Jags defense.

One final note, Darren McFadden has faced criticism (myself included) all week over a seeming lack of explosiveness in his game. Granted the offensive line barely opened up lanes Week 1, but McFadden definitely lacked the ability to make guys miss against the Colts. The Jags gave up the third most rushing yards last season, and gave up 121 yards in Week 1. If McFadden can’t turn it around this week, it might be time to start getting worried.

When the Raiders are on defense

The Raiders’ defense only gave up 21 points last week, but lacked the ability to make important stops, or create turnovers. Once again, however, they will be given a chance to hone their skills against a less-than-potent Jags’ offense.

One big area of concern will be the run game. The Jags most well known player is Maurice Jones-Drew, and with good reason. He has managed to put up excellent numbers despite poor surroundings for his entire career. He only had 45 yards in Week 1, but is a consistently great runner who has never averaged below 4.2 yards/attempt in a season. Speaking of Week 1, the Raiders’ defense gave up 127 yards on the ground in Week 1 to a Colts’ running game that started Vic Ballard. The Colts averaged 4.9 yards/attempt, a number good for 5th best – or in the eyes of Raiders’ fans, worst – throughout the league in Week 1. Rookie linebacker Sio Moore was only able to be on the field for nine plays on Sunday, and his health will be essential to stopping the run game. The linebacking corps, Kaluka Maiava in particular, struggled against the run, a weakness that Moore would help sure up. Moore is slated to start this week, which should go along way in slowing the run. It will also help that Chad Henne is not nearly as effective as Andrew Luck meaning the Raider defense can slip an extra man or two into the box to help against the run.

Can our special teams create an edge?

Well, if Janikowski and Scobee don’t duel it out before the game, there’s a good chance both men will play a role in this game. Scobee is supposedly practicing on a baseball infield in Jacksonville to prepare for this week. The story for Raiders’ fans to keep an eye on is whether there will be an adjustment period for Janikowski to get used to Marquette King as his holder. Last week’s miss before the half brought this question up, and the two will have to work to solidify that connection going forward.

Final verdict/prediction

Unlike last week, in which a win seemed like a bit of a stretch before the game, this week provides a very reasonable win. Pryor should have more time than last week to make plays with his arm and his legs, and the defense should be able to get some rest on the sideline, seeing as the Jags are perennially last in time of possession. Not to jinx it, but I believe of all the Raiders’ games this year, this will be the most enjoyable for Raiders’ fans. 27-13 Raiders

Author: Jim Turvey

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