Oakland Raiders (6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5)
-- In Week 14, the Oakland Raiders travel to EverBank Field in Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars.
-- It's an early wake up call for West Coast fans as kickoff is set for 10:00 a.m. PT. The game will be broadcasted on CBS with Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots in the booth.
-- From here on out, Oakland is essentially playing for their playoff lives. Kansas City is currently in first place with an overall record of 8-4. The Raiders and San Diego both have 6-6 records, but having swept the season series versus the Chargers, the Raiders have sole possession of second place.
-- With the Chiefs playing so well this year, the Raiders have to win out the season to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Oakland will travel to Kansas City in Week 17 to conclude the regular season.
-- With the running game struggling to gain any consistency in the first seven games, the Jaguars struggled their way to a 3-4. However, in the last five games, Maurice Jones-Drew and company have been on a tear, culminating into a 4-1 recording in that stretch.
-- In the last five games, Jacksonville has rushed for an average of 184.8 yards per game. Jones-Drew has topped the century mark in all five of those games, including a career-high 186 yards last weekend in Tennessee.
-- In Week 13, Jacksonville beat Tennessee on the road, 17-6. The Jaguars were paced by Jones-Drew's 186 yards, David Garrard's efficient performance (126 yards on 14-of-19 passing) and a stout defensive effort that held Chris Johnson to a mere 53 yards rushing.
-- Of course, last weekend the Raiders scored a huge victory over the Chargers, 28-13. It was an important victory for the Raiders as it ended a two-game slide and brought their record back up to .500. Paced by their running game (251 yards, three touchdowns) and Jason Campbell's efficient performance, the Raiders had an easy going with their rivals from down south.
-- This will be only the fifth meeting ever between these two franchises. Jacksonville owns the overall record at 3-1.
-- The last time they met was in Week 16 of the 2007 season. Playing in Jacksonville, the Jaguars easily handled the Raiders, 49-11. Fred Taylor ran for 111 yards and a touchdown. Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 44 yards and a touchdown but also hauled in six catches for 96 yards. David Garrard threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-18 passing. He also ran for a touchdown as well. For Oakland, Dominic Rhodes ran for 115 yards on 27 carries but JaMarcus Russell struggled mightily, throwing three interceptions and only 83 yards on 7-of-23 passing.
-- Jacksonville is led by eighth-year head coach Jack Del Rio. Since becoming head coach in 2003, Del Rio has led Jacksonville to two post-season appearances and has an overall record of 63-59. Del Rio is 2-0 all-time against the Raiders. In those two games, Del Rio's Jaguar teams have outscored the Raiders 62-17.
For the Raiders
Questionable: CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle), SS Tyvon Branch (shoulder), FS Hiram Eugene (ribs), DT John Henderson (knee), CB Chris Johnson (groin), LB Rolando McClain (foot), WR Nick Miller (ankle), DE Jarvis Moss (hand), WR Chaz Schilens (knee)
Probable: TE Zach Miller (foot)
For the Jaguars
Out: S Courtney Greene (shoulder)
Raiders Offense vs. Jaguars Defense
Jacksonville is a team that has found ways to win, despite a defense that is middle-of-the-road at best (this includes a 31-24 victory over the Texans in Week 10, off of a last-second ‘Hail Mary' pass).
Last season, Jacksonville had a NFL-worst 14 sacks. They addressed the issue by drafting Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu and signing veteran defensive end Aaron Kampman.
While Alualu has been a solid addition to the front—he currently leads all Jaguars linemen in tackles (30) and (sacks)—Kampan was lost for the season, following a torn ACL he suffered in Week 8. In his place, the Jaguars have gotten good production from Jeremy Mincey. Mincey is a tough defender and the Jaguars coaching staff often site his motor and productivity. Derrick Harvey, the former 8th overall pick in 2008, started the season opposite Kampan but has since been replaced by 5th round rookie Austen Lane.
Despite the changes they've made to the defensive line, the Jaguars still struggle at getting a pass rush going. In their last five games, Jacksonville has gone 4-1, thanks mainly to their run defense, which has allowed an average of 82.2 rushing yards. However, opposing quarterbacks have thrown for 252.6 yards per game during that same stretch. The pressure isn't there either. Save for a six-sack explosion against Cleveland, the Jaguars have only 15 sacks on the year. Their season total of 21 sacks is good for only 27th in the league.
This is a reunion game for two players. While John Henderson will be coming back to Jacksonville for the first time as a Raider, the same is true for first-year Jaguar and long-time Raider, linebacker Kirk Morrison.
Of course, Morrison was traded during the offseason after the Raiders drafted Rolando McClain with the 8th overall pick. Morrison isn't putting up the numbers he did in Oakland—he led the team in tackles each of his five seasons—but that's partly because he isn't asked to do as much in Jacksonville.
Morrison is flanked by Daryl Smith and Justin Durant, and the trio make up a productive group. Smith leads the team in total tackles with 66 while Durant is fourth (just behind Morrison) with 52.
The Jaguars secondary is productive as far as registering tackles, but they are among the league's worst. They are allowing 252.9 passing yards per game, a mark that ranks 27th overall. Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox are the corners. Don Carey starts at free safety. Courtney Greene is unlikely to play on Sunday so veteran Sean Considine will likely get the call at strong safety.
It's no secret that the Raiders can't do much without an effective ground game. Although that will be important to establish, it's imperative that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson gets Jason Campbell in a rhythm throwing the ball.
The Jaguars will do everything they can to disrupt that rhythm as they love to blitz often. As the strength of Jacksonville's defense is easily their run defense, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush will be facing stacked boxes. If there's ever a time to let it fly and use the play-action liberally, this game is it.
Really, this will be a game of strength versus strength, Jacksonville's run defense versus Oakland's run offense. However, even though the Raiders lack a consistent passing attack, Jacksonville is vulnerable to big plays down the field. Jason Campbell has shown the penchant to throw the deep ball, despite the wide receivers' inability to haul them in on a consistent basis. That being said, it only takes one play to change a game and Oakland, particularly Jacoby Ford, have shown that they are good for it.
Raiders Defense vs. Jaguars Offense
Oakland's running game is third only to first ranked Kansas City and second place… Jacksonville. That's not unexpected when you feature a running back the caliber of Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew is second in the NFL with 1,177 rushing yards. After a slow start to the season, Jones-Drew has picked it up considerably and has rushed for over 100 yards in the past five games.
Eight-year veteran David Garrard has been less of an impact player this year, but as the season has gone on, he's developed into a good manager of the game. Garrard doesn't take many shots down the field but he consistently puts his team in positions to win. In fact, Garrard has the second best fourth-quarter passer rating at 118.9.
On Thursday, Mike Sims-Walker had a full practice so he's likely to go opposite second-year man Mike Thomas. The former Arizona Wildcat has been a gem for the Jacksonville offense. He currently leads the team in receiving yards with 649 and first down receptions with 32. In the redzone, Marcedes Lewis is Garrard's go-to option. At 6-6, 275-lbs., Lewis is just as athletic as he is big. He is an absolute priority cover when Jacksonville is within the 20-yard line. He leads the team in touchdown receptions with eight.
Led by center Brad Meester, the Jacksonville offensive line is a physical bunch. They're not on the same level of Tennessee's physical line but Richard Seymour and company should expect the same sort of smash mouth play up front.
The Raiders are tied for the league lead in sacks with 36. That being said, against Jones-Drew and the Jacksonville front, the Oakland line will have to focus on containment and keeping bodies off of their linebackers. Although he certainly doesn't shy away from contact, at 5-foot-7, Jones-Drew is tough to spot behind that big offensive line. Rolando McClain, Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves will need space to roam and operate if the Raiders are to slow down Jacksonville's running game.
Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee is 18 for 22 on the year on his field goals. He's got a strong leg as he is 2-for-2 from 50 yards and out and his season-long of 59 yards is tied for second best this year. Adam Podlesh handles punting duties for Jacksonville. He has sent off 37 punts for an average of 43.3.
Rookie Deji Karim is the primary kick return man. He has returned 32 kicks for 786 yards. Tiquan Underwood is the deep man. He's taken back 24 kicks for 561 yards.
Wide receiver Mike Thomas handles punt return duties. He's returned 22 punts for 207 yards—an average of 9.4 yards per return.
Prediction and Outcome
The Raiders, for the first time eight years, are playing for their playoff lives. The Jaguars are sitting in first place in the AFC East but the Indianapolis Colts are nipping at their heels. In other words, both teams have a lot riding on this game.
It will be interesting how this young Raider team will respond to having this much pressure late in the season. So far the results have been mixed but this is definitely a new Raiders team.
Offensively, from here on out, the Raiders running game cannot have a letdown performance. Their entire offense is predicated on their ability to run the ball and Jason Campbell has yet to show the ability to consistently lead this offense down the field.
That being said, this game will provide a great opportunity for Campbell to make a statement. There are plenty of quarterbacks who rely on their running game and are labeled as great managers of the game. What that usually means is that they're not among the elite group of quarterbacks. This is not to say the Campbell can be among that group or deserves to be, but for this offense (and team) to come full circle, Campbell absolutely has to step his game up a few notches. Jacksonville's aggressive secondary is the perfect opportunity to do just that.