It is, as the team's slogan once said, “Go time” for the New York Jets.
The Jets are suddenly being talked about again as a playoff team. After a season in which they went 8-8 and defied the conventional wisdom, this young (and now deep) roster looks ready to take another step forward. But before fans get too excited about the postseason possibilities, there's this little thing called the regular season that might just trip them up.
With that being said, there is a reason to be excited this year about the Jets.
“Everything is just ramped up. As much as you love training camp and everything else, and it’s true, there is just something special about opening a season. I know the fans, I feel it from the fans, their anticipation, I feel it from our players, and I for one, without question, can’t wait to get this thing started,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “We feel good about where we’re at as a football team, but the great thing is we get to prove it. We think we are going to have an outstanding season, but we get to prove it. It starts on Sunday against a veteran group. This team probably has more experience than any team in the National Football League. So there are some guys who have played a lot of football, and a lot of good football that we are up against. So we know it presents a big challenge.”
On tap this weekend are the Raiders, a team that didn't have a great offseason and on paper is in the lower echelon in terms of pure talent, and football IQ, and front office acumen, and pure ability on the field. And ... well, the point has been made.
This is certainly a winnable game for the Jets and one they must take care of with a tough schedule ahead. There are four playoff teams from last season in their next six games, making this almost a must-win game for the Jets.
We give you three things to watch for as the Jets take on the Raiders (1 p.m., CBS).
1. Getting to the Carr
Local fans will remember Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr for leading Fresno State to a 52-51 win over Rutgers last season. It was a game where the gunslinger threw for over 450 yards and had five touchdowns and an interception. Carr is accurate and can certainly throw the ball, but he will never have faced a pass rush quite like this one. The Jets' front-seven is arguably the best in the league and they will mix things up against a rookie in his first NFL start.
“I think no matter who your quarterback is when you face a Rex Ryan defense he’s going to cause some problems because he does a lot of different things and brings some exotic pressures and understands how to get the fronts in line to give you problems in the run game,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “But we feel good about Derek Carr, [and] where he’s at. He’s really mature beyond his age as far as a young quarterback in this league.”
2. Cornerback issue
Dee Milliner isn't going to play in this game, making a cornerback corps that is already weak all the more paper thin. The good news is that the Raiders passing offense won't be very good, meaning that the secondary may not be tested too much. Antonio Allen will likely get the nod on one side opposite Darrin Walls on the either side. Walls has had a pretty good preseason but has lacked consistency throughout his career. Now would be a good time to find that consistency.
3. Tuck rule
While the Raiders didn't have a great offseason, they did bolster their offensive line with former Jets right tackle Austin Howard, who they puzzlingly moved to guard. But on the other side of the ball, their defensive line got a nice boost with defensive end Justin Tuck. The 31-year old Tuck still has it, as evidenced by his 11 sacks last season.
“I think a lot of people really understand who Justin Tuck is and what he brings from a leadership standpoint to a football team,” Allen said. “He has been outstanding as far as that’s concerned. I think the biggest thing that kind of gets overlooked a little bit is that Justin Tuck can still play at a high level and he did that throughout the preseason and we expect him to be able to continue to do that throughout the year.
The Raiders pass defense was No. 28 in the league last year and there's no better way to correct that then with a good pass rush. Tuck can address that issue while bringing leadership to a young locker room.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.