The New York Jets offensive resurgence has been centered on quarterback Chad Pennington.
The Joe Namath and Joe Montana comparisons to the first-year starter and third-year pro are premature but Pennington has played with veteran like poise. He is the only quarterback with a higher rating than Rich Gannon, the Raider's signal-caller voted NFL MVP.
The Jets current run of winning eight of their last 10 games, however, can be equally linked to the return to health by running back Curtis Martin. Granted, Pennington has recently shown that he is not picky about spreading the ball around to wide receivers Laveranues Coles, Wayne Chrebet and Santana Moss.
The Raiders No. 1 priority, however, will likely hinge on taking away Martin, who has topped the 100-yard rushing plateau in four of his last seven games.
"They have playmakers in every facet of their offense," Oakland defensive tackle Sam Adams said. "If they get the run going, they can get the pass going. We have to play disciplined and fly around to the football."
There is plenty of evidence that if the Raiders can stall Martin, their chances of winning increase.
Since becoming a Jet in 1998, New York is 24-7 when Martin tops 100 yards rushing. Oakland stuffed Martin when the two teams met on Dec. 2, holding him to 26 yards on 11 carries in a 26-20 Raider win. Oakland was No. 3 in the NFL in stopping the run thanks in large part to the addition of Adams and John Parrella at defensive tackle. During a four-game losing streak, the Raiders gave up an average of 153 yards rushing. During Oakland's stretch of winning seven of its last eight games, it allowed 65.7 yards on the ground.
"You're only as good as your last performance," Adams said. "Every time he touches the ball, we've got to hit him. He's very elusive and doesn't go down easy."