AFC action on Sunday as the New York Jets host the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders at MetLife Stadium. These teams actually have a lot of history–the Joe Namath led Jets beat the Raiders in the 1968 AFC title game to advance to the Super Bowl.
Of course that’s just subtext in this matchup 51 or so years later. Can you imagine the heckling you would have received back in 1968 if you boldly predicted that early in the next century the Oakland Raiders would be playing in Las Vegas, Nevada? What team in their right mind would leave Oakland–population 361,561–for a dusty desert gambling town with nearly 100,000 fewer residents in the entire metro area? Where would they play? Would they share Cashman Field–capacity 12,500 with standing room–with the UNLV football team? The Rebels wouldn’t move into the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl until 1971. Like the Raiders would leave the then state of the art Oakland Alameda County Coliseum which had opened just 4 years before with a massive 63,132 capacity?
Probably not a good idea to retort that in 2019 the Las Vegas Metro would have a population of just under 2 million and that the Raiders would play in the brand new 65,000 seat Allegiant Stadium built at a cost of $1.8 billion and right down the street from the 20,000 seat T-Mobile Arena. That’s where the Las Vegas NHL hockey team plays, you know the one that almost won the Stanley Cup as a first year expansion team. The locals would have you locked up so best not give them a head to head comparison with the pictures you keep on that strange Star Trek tricorder looking device in your pocket. If you showed them the Las Vegas Strip in 1968:
And then showed them the same stretch of road in 2018
…they wouldn’t be able to process it and you’d be committed to an asylum as a raving lunatic and general threat to decent citizens across the United States.
It’s been a big year so far for the Oakland Raiders and they enter this matchup on a three game winning streak and having won 5 of 7 straight up and against the spread. Not like they’ve played a fearsome schedule–they’ve faced bad teams (Detroit, the LA Chargers, Cincinnati) and were fortunate to catch the decent teams in tough situations. The Indianapolis Colts were injury depleted when Oakland won 31-24 on the road as +6 underdogs. They were +7 dogs the following week–although they were technically the home team they played the Chicago Bears in London. The two good teams they played in not so unfavorable spots both beat them. At any rate, the Oakland Raiders will come in for this early start time road game feeling really good about life.
If you’ve followed our handicapping analysis for awhile you’ve no doubt heard me talk about the tendency of the public to ‘check out’ on teams that struggle early on. In the case of the New York Jets it might not have been a bad idea. They lost their first four games, shocked the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium and then proceeded to lose the next three to drop to 1-7. The biggest storylines for the Jets were quarterback Sam Darnold’s bout with mononucleosis and googly eyed head coach Adam Gase’s general strangeness. The ‘squares’ won’t notice that the Jets have done a nice job ‘taking care of business’ against bottom feeders during the past two weeks (the Giants and Redskins). Darnold threw four TD passes last week and could reprise that performance against the #27 ranked Raiders pass defense.
Oakland enters this game on a 4-16 SU/6-13-1 ATS run on the road during the past three years. They’re off a dismal performance at home against Cincinnati where they won by 7 as -12.5 point favorites scoring only 17 points in the process. They’ve got a big lookahead spot on deck as they’ll play against the Chiefs at Kansas City next Sunday. The Jets have two more very winnable games on deck against Cincinnati and Miami. The Raiders’ primary offensive weapon is the running attack of rookie Josh Jacobs. Jacobs might find the going tough against a Jets rush defense that is the best in the NFL allowing just 79.1 yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry on the ground.
This is a big game for the Jets who would have their first three game winning streak in the past two seasons with a victory here. They would then have a good shot at beating their next two opponents before their next tough game at Baltimore. Three more wins in a row would put them at 6-7 heading into the game against the Ravens. It wouldn’t be unrealistic for a .500 team to make the playoffs so they’d have a shot at one of the most improbable postseason berths in recent history. At any rate, finishing the season anywhere near .500 would be a ‘moral victory’ after the tough start to the campaign.