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Storylines to follow for Jets @ Raiders

The Raiders are finally coming home for their 2011 season opening game. Following a depressing loss on the road in Buffalo, Oakland will be looking to impress a sellout crowd at the O.co Coliseum. They face a daunting task in the New York Jets – a team that has been in the AFC Championship in each of the last two seasons. However, they are also a team that relies on their ground game and thus far, they have not gotten it done on the ground and are currently ranked 28th in the NFL. Let’s take a closer look at some of the storylines surrounding the Jets at Raiders game this weekend.

Looking for an identity

Ironically enough, the Raiders seem to be the team that knows what they are this year as the Jets continue to search for their offensive identity. Despite having Brian Schottenheimer as an offensive coordinator since the Eric Mangini days, it seems now that the Jets are more lost on offense than ever before. Or perhaps they just know that their running game is good, and they want to work on passing early in the season so it is there later in the year when they need it. However, there is a chance the Shonn Greene is not all he is cracked up to be – the same player that allowed the Jets to show Thomas Jones and Leon Washington the door a couple of years ago.

For the weapons they have in the passing game, the Jets are only ranked thirteenth in the league in passing yards. Give Tom Brady receivers like Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Derrick Mason and see if he doesn’t break Dan Marino’s passing record in week five. What I’m getting at is that Mark Sanchez is not the reason why the Jets are 2-0. Thus far, he has four touchdown passes and three interceptions. Granted he has a higher completion percentage than he had in the past. But when your leading rusher is putting up 2.9 yards per carry with a long run of 12 yards, you have to hope that second-half Raiders defense shows up again.

Offensive Line (non)issues

The Jets are having issues with their offensive line, as demonstrated in the previous comments about the rushing attack. They lost guard Damien Woody to a torn Achilles tendon in February and he proceeded to retire. Now they have lost their three-time Pro Bowl and two-time All-Pro center Nick Mangold for this game and potentially the next one as well. To further complicate things, they have allowed five sacks of Sanchez already and are facing a tremendous front four this week that is looking to prove they are better than they showed last week. In addition, the Jets are only allowing running backs not named Shonn Greene to pick up 2.25 yards per carry. The Jets leftover offensive line must prove they are up to the task.

The Raiders, on the other hand, have been surprisingly good along their offensive front. Quarterback Jason Campbell praised them in his most recent media session and called them a veteran group – which isn’t entirely accurate. Khalif Barnes, Cooper Carlisle, and Samson Satele can be considered veterans, but the starting left side for the Raiders, a.k.a. the quarterback’s blindside, is owned by rookie left guard Stefen Wisniewski and second-year left tackle Jared Veldheer. Thus far, the entire unit has allowed just one sack, and Campbell is completing 66.5 percent of his passes with a QB rating just below 100. Meanwhile Darren McFadden has run for 5.3 yards per carry, while Michael Bush is adding a healthy 4.1 yards per as his back-up. McFadden’s longest run is a 47 yarder and Bush has put up 22 in one carry. Together, the Raiders’ long runs this year are just six yards shy of what Greene has done with 26 attempts.

Coaching mind games

Rex Ryan and Hue Jackson go back a bit in NFL history since they were both coaches for the Baltimore Ravens for a few years together. Coach Jackson joked earlier this week about how he used to go the opposing teams’ quarterbacks prior to games and get them worked up about playing against Rex Ryan’s defense when he was defensive coordinator for the Ravens. Jackson then said that he will be keeping his quarterbacks away from Rex Ryan prior to the start of the game Sunday. But all of the back-patting will stop once the cleats are laced up and the game jerseys are donned.

This is going to be one of the more entertaining battles of the year for these two coaches. The jousting and cockfighting that will go on in this game could turn out to be epic. It’s one of the best defensive minds in the league vs. one of the best offensive minds in the game today. Neither one will back down or run from anything the other will put out there. Both coaches have a lot of talented players on their respective sides of the ball. This is certainly going to be one of the games that everybody playing in an early game Sunday will be watching. Analysts from around the league will have their eyes glued too since it is an afternoon game… on the east coast.

Defending the home grass

This is one of the only stadiums left in the league with an actual grass field. Some blockbuster battles have been conducted at the Coliseum. Sunday could be yet another. But one thing it cannot be if the Raiders ever want another sellout this season is a lopsided beat down courtesy of a team that is traveling across the country as the Raiders did last week. The Raiders are in a must win situation against a team that has their back on the ropes and is just waiting for somebody to deliver a knockout punch and prove that the Buffalo Bills are the second best team in the AFC East this season, not the Jets.

The Raiders are said to be amped up to play in front of a home sellout, which is something that they were only able to do once last season. If they lose this one, they will certainly not sell out next week’s game against the Super Bowl favorite New England Patriots. But if they can manage a win in this contest, they will most likely get back-to-back sellouts for the first time in forever. The 12th man has an opportunity to make that a possibility this week, so everybody should be on their feet and cheering. RAIDERS! RAIDERS! RAIDERS!

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