Football in late December is normally defined by depth, as most teams are dealing with injuries to key contributors and the truly great teams stand above the rest. The Raiders are basically following the status quo with their injury report, as the following players did not practice on Friday: RB Darren McFadden (shocking!), WR Denarius Moore, G Mike Brisiel, RB Jeremy Stewart, LB Kaluka Maiava, and S Usama Young. Brisiel’s injury is a bit annoying, as the Raiders seemed to finally be turning a corner with their offensive line. SS Tyvon Branch, LB Miles Burris, and RB Rashad Jennings were all limited in practice; while the news of Branch coming back to practice is wonderful news for the Raiders, he will also be out on Sunday; it wouldn’t be surprising to see him starting next week, though. As that article states, it leaves the Raiders in a VERY rough predicament on defense: SS Brandian Ross and FS Charles Woodson are the only healthy safeties on the roster. If either of these players misses playing time, the Raiders will be forced to play one of their four healthy corners at safety, likely Chimdi Chekwa. Raiders fans should be praying that they can come out of New York without any significant injuries.
New York is in almost the exact opposite situation, as every single Jet on the active roster is expected to suit up. This includes the return of WRs Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley, which could potentially re-ignite a stagnant Jets offense that has produced just 20 points in the past three games. Geno Smith has struggled mightily in the past few weeks, culminating in being benched against the Dolphins in a 20-3 loss, but the return of his top two receivers could help significantly.
If the Raiders can stay healthy in this game, their defense stands a very good shot at containing a weaker offense in New York. The Raiders rank in the bottom half of the league against the pass, but their MO of heavy blitzes from every direction could work well against an easily-flustered rookie QB with a weak offensive line, and the team has still played strong run defense despite its worst game against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Oakland has struggled this season against hurry-up offenses and quarterbacks that can change protections based on their blitzes, but the team has played great defense against slower offenses that allow the team to set up and disguise its pressure. Geno fits firmly into the latter category, so hopefully the Raiders are prepared to take advantage of it. With ten days to prepare against New York, Oakland’s defense has a lot riding on a successful performance against the Jets. It will be interesting to see if they can take advantage of it.