NFL Preview - Jacksonville (1-4) at Oakland (1-4)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Oakland Raiders' best effort in recent weeks was ill-
But if coach Dennis Allen's team can replicate the performance this week, it
may turn out better.
The Raiders established season-highs in both total yards and rushing yards a
week ago in losing a three-point game to the league's lone unbeaten team --
the Atlanta Falcons -- but they'll get another crack with a less-successful
foe this weekend when the Jacksonville Jaguars pay a Sunday visit.
Oakland was beaten, 37-6, at Denver on Sept. 30 in a game quarterback Carson
Palmer studiously referred to as a "good, old-fashioned butt-whupping," but
the team and the passer rallied against the Falcons and pulled ahead with a
late drive before losing when Matt Bryant hit a 55-yard field goal with one
"We've got to learn how to finish and win those types of games," Allen said.
"That's what our job is. This is a production business. It's about winning and
losing, and we weren't able to get it done (Sunday)."
The Jaguars took a 41-3 drubbing at the hands of the Chicago Bears on Oct. 7
and licked their collective wounds during last week's bye.
"I think the answers are in this building,"' coach Mike Mularkey said. "I
think they are in that locker room. They are in that staff room. They're in
the meeting rooms, on the practice fields, during our preparation. I think the
answers are all here, and we've just got a find a way to get those to transfer
over to games so we can play complete games and play like we're capable of
Jacksonville has struggled to make things happen on offense with second-year
passer Blaine Gabbert, placing last in the league in total offense (241.2
yards per game), passing (142.8 yards per game) and scoring (13 points per
game) through five weeks. Additionally, the five games have yielded just one
On defense, the Jaguars are 25th in the league with 27.6 points allowed per
game and only three sacks.
"It's been the same thing for five years," running back Maurice Jones-Drew
said. "Obviously, we're not working hard enough. I don't know. We're just not
playing well right now. We have to figure something out. No one here is going
to save us."
Oakland's managed just four sacks in five games, but could be boosted with the
presence of linebacker Aaron Curry. The fourth overall pick by Seattle in 2009
could return to practice after offseason knee surgery, but his status for
Sunday remains in doubt.
"We're going to get him out there and let him run around, see where he's at
and begin the evaluation process to figure out if and when he's going to be
available on the roster," Allen said.
Oakland used rookie linebacker Miles Burris against a pass-intense Atlanta
offense, but the scheme may be unnecessary against a Jacksonville offense
that's yielded only eight pass completions of 20 or more yards and receiver
drops on 12.8 percent of possible catches.
The Raiders have allowed opponents to convert 49.3 percent of third-down
tries, but Jacksonville is sixth-worst in the league with a 31.3 conversion
rate. Additionally, Jones-Drew's 4.9 yards per carry average is among the best
of his career, but Oakland's defense held Atlanta to only 45 yards on 15
Jones-Drew ran for 101 yards and a TD in Jacksonville's 38-31 win in the
series in December 2010. Oakland's Darren McFadden scored three times and had
209 scrimmage yards in that game, but has a career-worst 3.2 yards per carry
this season with just two touchdowns.
The Jaguars have won four of five games in the all-time series. In the last
game in Oakland, Jacksonville won, 13-6, in January 2005. Coach Mike Mularkey
is 0-2 in his career against the Raiders, while Oakland's Dennis Allen has
never faced the Jaguars.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The nickel defense that was employed by the Raiders last week to combat Matt
Ryan probably won't be needed to deal with Gabbert, but that scheme did manage
to keep Atlanta's Michael Turner in check and may allow more freedom to mix
things up against the Jaguars.
Expect a variety of blitzes and nickel and dime schemes based on specific
sequences. If Oakland can stop the run with six in the box, it won't need more
unless the goal is to harass Gabbert on a specific play. Looming large for the
Jaguars is the mandate to get a lead or at least stay close into the second
half, so Gabbert won't be forced into a throw-to-win situation.
Jones-Drew has 408 yards on the season, but 177 of them came in one game.
"We've gotten down pretty quickly in games, and we've had to throw the ball to
get back in it, so that's why you see 12 carries or 13 carries," he said. "Our
game plan is to stick to what we do best and be balanced on offense."
"They're definitely going to run the ball downhill," Oakland cornerback
Michael Huff said. "They've got their play-action, and they're going to take
their shot. We still have to hold up on the back end, but they're definitely
more of a run team. We've got to make sure we're stout in the run game."
While Jones-Drew has long been one of the NFL's best, the rate at which the
surrounding talent has dwindled is alarming - and Gabbert's shown only traces
of signs that he's capable of reversing the trend. On the other side, the
Raiders have assembled a bevy of inconsistent talent and Palmer has so far
seemed a good veteran fit as signal caller. After last week's buoying
performance, expect the Oakland talent level to be decisive here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Raiders 27, Jaguars 14
10/18 11:47:46 ET
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