By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
OAKLAND — As October comes to an end and November begins in the National Football League, the playoff puzzle starts to take shape and the Raiders are hoping to be a major factor this year.
After boat-racing the Chargers 37-29 last Sunday behind an offensive onslaught led by quarterback Derek Carr’s 24 of 31 completions for 289 yards three touchdowns, Oakland (3-3) faces a tough pass defense when the Silver and Black host the New York Jets Sunday at 1:05 p.m. PT.
Rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper has been absolutely dynamite this season and is by far the odds on favorite to win the rookie of the year award.
Cooper torched the Chargers’ shaky pass defense for five catches and 133 yards, including a 52-yard catch and run touchdown that put Oakland ahead 30-6 shortly before halftime.
The former Alabama star leads all rookies with 33 catches for 519 yards and three touchdowns and became the first rookie to have three 100-yard efforts in his first six games since tight end Mike Ditka in 1961. Both Cooper and former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree are on pace to have 1,000-yard receiving seasons, which Oakland hasn’t had since Randy Moss’s 1,005 yards in 2005.
But the Jets (4-2) aren’t the San Diego Chargers and New York’s cornerback tandem of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. It can be expected that first-year Jets head coach Todd Bowles will have Revis following Cooper all day to prevent Cooper’s explosive play-making ability.
New York squandered a 20-16 lead at AFC East-leading New England last week with 13 minutes to go, before falling 30-23 to the Patriots. The Jets, who sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady three times, comes into the game with seven sacks over their last three games.
Stud defensive tackle Muhammed Wilkerson leads the team with five sacks, while Oakland’s offensive line has protected Carr all season just yielding seven sacks.
Gang Green leads the league in stopping the opposition’s running game, surrendering just 71.5 yards per game. New York held New England to 16 rushing yards, their fourth-lowest total in franchise history.
Oakland has given up 303.8 yards per game this season, but has registered seven interceptions in the last five games after picking off Philip Rivers twice last week.
Raiders safety Charles Woodson, who was named AFC defensive player of the month for October, continues to be a marvel at age 39. It’s the fifth time Woodson has won defensive player of the month after recording three interceptions in three games in October.
Chris Ivory is the Jets’ bellcow, is dealing with a hamstring injury and his status for Sunday remains uncertain. Ivory mustered just 41 yards on 17 carries against New England.
In last season’s 19-14 victory over Oakland at MetLife Stadium last year, Ivory wore down Oakland with 102 rushing yards and a touchdown. Given the hamstring injury to Ivory, Oakland maybe better suited to stopping the Jets’ ground attack as the Silver and Black are third against the run this season allowing just 84.3 yards per game.
If Oakland is able to win this game against the Jets, it will give Oakland the head-to-head advantage in any tiebreaker situations for a playoff spot.
After Sunday’s game, Oakland travels to 4-3 Pittsburgh, in another tough game with possible playoff implications for both.