The Jets are about to embark on a seven-game stretch during which they’ll essentially be the Harlem Globetrotters to their opponents’ Washington Generals. If they play as well as they can, Gang Green will probably have 10 or 11 wins with three games left, which should leave them with one of the best records in the NFL -- and right on the heels of the Patriots, who are used to having first place in the AFC East division handed to them before the season even starts.
The Jets’ tour vs. the little sisters of the poor starts on Sunday in Oakland. But -- and you really may want to sit down for this -- the Raiders aren’t that bad. I’m not kidding, and, no, you haven’t taken the DeLorean back to the mid-80s. It’s true, the silver & black are showing promise in 2015, with a core of talented young skill players on offense and a defense that … well, that’s pretty bad, but still gives up less points that the team scores on occasion.
At 3-3, the Raiders are -- still sitting? -- very much in the race for a wild card spot in the AFC, where it appears as though nine wins may be enough to lock up the last vacancy. Yes, there are still 10 games left to play, and, if the past two decades are any indication, unforeseen disaster will all but certainly strike in Oakland. But, at least for now, they’re a team to watch.
On Sunday, we’ll likely watch them getting knocked all over the field by the visitors. Raiders second-year QB Derek Carr has been a revelation as has third-year RB Latavius Murray. Meanwhile, rookie receiver Amari Cooper, selected two spots ahead of Jets DL Leonard Williams in the 2015 NFL Draft, looks like a future star.
But against the Jets’ formidable defense, Oakland’s young guns will face their toughest opponent to date (though Denver’s D, which held the Raiders to just 10 points a few weeks back, might beg to differ). Carr will be harassed in the pocket all afternoon, while Murray won’t find much room to run. Cooper? Meet Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine. Good luck, rook.
Meanwhile, Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will be facing a Raiders squad whose best DB -- Charles Woodson -- is just shy of 40. And, with Chris Ivory’s ailing quad one week healthier than last Sunday, the NFL’s hardest-running RB should be much closer to his old self than he was vs. the Pats.
The Jets should be 5-2 by the close of the weekend, with a bunch more likely Ws on the horizon -- if they play up to their considerable capabilities. By mid-December, Woody Johnson will owe the league’s schedule-makers an awfully nice Christmas gift.