Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
1:00 p.m., Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
Kickoff Temperature: 70 degrees, 40% chance of rain
Records: Oakland 4-10, fourth place in the AFC West, Jacksonville 10-4, second place in the AFC South.
Line: Jaguars by 13
Oakland offense- 24th overall (31st overall, 5th rushing); Scoring- 23rd- 18.2 ppg. Vs. Jacksonville defense- 14th overall (25th passing, 5th rushing); Scoring-7th- 17.9 ppg.
The Raiders, much like the Jaguars, like to run the football on offense, but they will be missing their most productive back, Justin Fargas, who went down with a knee injury last week against Indianapolis. Former Colt Dominic Rhodes, and former Jet Lamont Jordan will likely fill in for Fargas. Rhodes has just 65 rushing yards this season, while Jordan has gained 549 yards. Despite making over five million dollars this year, the pair have combined for just three touchdowns, which is a far cry from the production that the former third round pick (Fargas) has given them (1009 yards rushing, 4.5 yards per carry, and 4 TD's).
Starting at quarterback for the Raiders will likely be Josh McCown, who has completed 57.7% of his passes for 1105 yards, 10 TD's, and 11 INT's, for a quarterback rating of just 68.6 in eight games. McCown is mobile, and throws better while out on bootlegs than staying in the pocket. McCown is a poor man's version of Vince Young, with a little better decision making, and not as much physical ability. Also expected to see time will be the top overall pick in April's draft, JaMarcus Russell. Russell has been inserted for a couple series in two of Oakland's last three games, and he's found limited success. Russell has completed 6 of 12 passes, for 66 yards and a quarterback rating of 66.7.
McCown's and Russell's main target in the passing game is wide receiver Ronald Curry. Curry leads the team with 52 catches for 682 yards and four touchdowns. The Raiders most explosive threat on the outside is Jerry Porter, who has caught 40 balls for 643 yards and five touchdowns. Tight end Zach Miller has been a reliable target as a rookie, and has caught 33 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Rounding out the Raiders receiving corps are veteran Tim Dwight, and rookie speedster Johnnie Lee Higgins.
As porous as the Jaguars pass defense has been this season, Oakland will have to establish some kind of running game to have any threat of doing damage through the air with a below average quarterback and a pair of receivers that are just playing out the string. Jerry Porter should demand a double team, but it's unlikely that Ronald Curry on the other side of the field can make single coverage pay for doing so. Lamont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes have been free agent disappointments since coming to Oakland, and this may be their last chance to revitalize their careers in the Bay area. The Jaguars defense should be able to shut down one of the least talented offenses in the NFL.
Jacksonville offense- 9th overall (18th passing, 2nd rushing); Scoring- 7th- 23.9 ppg. Vs. Oakland defense- 25th overall (7th passing, 31st rushing); Scoring- 21st- 21.8 ppg.
Jacksonville loves to run the football, Oakland is the second-worst run stopping team in the NFL. This match-up spells disaster for the visiting
Raiders. Oakland will try and buck this trend with a front four that is much better at rushing the passer than it is at holding up the line of
scrimmage. From left to right, the Raiders start Tyler Brayton, Warren Sapp, Gerard Warren, and Derrick Burgess along their front line. Burgess is
one of the best defensive ends in football, and he leads the team with six sacks. Sapp and Warren are shadows of the players that they used to be, and Brayton seems to be caught between positions (DE, DT).
Where the Raiders are very good is in the middle and back of their defense. The Oakland linebacking corps is led by second-year stud, Thomas Howard, who could be the best linebacker that nobody outside of the Bay area has heard of. Howard has 84 tackles, 11 passes defensed, and six interceptions this season, two of which he's taken back for touchdowns. Playing right next to Howard is middle linebacker Kirk Morrison, who leads the team with 109 tackles, 9 passes defensed, and three interceptions on the season. Morrison has sideline to sideline hitting ability. Next to Morrison is the Raiders weakest link at linebacker, Sam Williams.
In the secondary, the Raiders line up one of the very best corners in the league, Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha may be the second-best cornerback in the NFL, right behind Champ Bailey. Asomugha's interceptions are down this season (just one) due to opposing quarterbacks not looking in his direction. Playing opposite Asomugha, is third-year speedster Fabian Washington. Washington can run with any receiver in the league, although his 5'11" frame will leave him at a major disadvantage against the Jaguars tall group of wide receivers. The Oakland safeties are Michael Huff and Stuart Schweigert. Huff is a former first-round pick who is really beginning to show his big play abilities.
Offensively, the Jaguars will challenge the underachieving Raiders defensive line, and run the football with the red hot Fred Taylor, who has gone over 100 yards in four consecutive games, and Maurice Jones-Drew. Oakland will likely commit and extra man to the line of scrimmage which will likely open up big plays through the air for the NFL's second-rated passer in David Garrard, and the Jaguars improving group of receivers.
Raiders kickoff return- T24th (21.3 ypr.); punt return- 32nd (4.6 ypr.); punting- 1st (49.0 gross); net punting- 2nd (43.2 avg.); kickoff coverage- 8th (20.8 ypr. allowed); punt coverage- T23rd (10.7 ypr allowed)
Jaguars kickoff return- 9th (23.7 ypr.); punt return- 14th (9.5 ypr.); punting- 31st (40.2 gross); net punting- 28th (36.6 avg.); kickoff coverage- 1st (17.3 ypr. allowed); punt coverage- 9th (7.5 ypr. allowed)
Raiders: PK Sebastian Janikowski , P Shane Lechler, LS Jon Condo, KOR Chris Carr, PR Johnnie Lee Higgins
Janikowski is 21/29 on field goals with a long of 54 yards. Carr is averaging 21.9 yards per return on kickoffs, and Higgins is averaging 3.0 yards per punt return. Veteran Tim Dwight also
fills in on punt return duties and has averaged 6.0 yards per return.
Scobee is 12/13 on field goals with a long of 48 yards. Jones-Drew is averaging 26.2 yards per kickoff return. Northcutt is averaging 10.4 yards per punt return.
The Jaguars return men are significantly more explosive than Oakland's, and the Jaguars coverage teams are better. Oakland has a certain advantage in punting, as there is nearly a nine yard difference in yards per punt between the Raiders top-ranked Shane Lechler, and the Jaguars struggling rookie, Adam Podlesh. Both kickers have very strong legs, and Josh Scobee of Jacksonville is more accurate.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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