Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023 | 2 a.m.
• Who: Jets (4-4) at Raiders (4-5)
• When: 5:20 p.m.
• Where: Allegiant Stadium
• TV: NBC
• Radio: Raider Nation Radio 920 AM, KOMP 92.3 FM
• Betting line: Pick’em, over/under: 37
The second game under interim coach Antonio Pierce’s watch gets primetime treatment, as the NBC cameras come to town for the Las Vegas Raiders’ second appearance on Sunday Night Football this season.
There was some speculation that the network would use its ability to “flex” the game out of the slot because of both teams’ struggles, but the deadline passed and the matchup remained intact. Perhaps part of NBC’s reasoning for sticking with it is the rich storylines the game presents.
Las Vegas is one of the talks of the NFL after the way it came out with passion and purpose last week in a 30-6 blowout win against the New York Giants. The coaching change from the fired Josh McDaniels to Pierce seems to be a welcomed one by the players.
Meanwhile, rumors are swirling around the Jets that prized offseason trade acquisition/four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers could return from an Achilles tear before the end of the season if the team is still in the playoff race. Backup Zach Wilson has found it difficult to keep the Jets afloat, though, as he is the second-lowest rated passer in the NFL by QBR, ahead of only Carolina rookie Bryce Young.
Favorable matchup: Maxx Crosby vs. Jets’ offensive line
The Jets came into the season as a trendy Super Bowl sleeper with only one major weakness — their offensive line. And somehow, the unit has been even worse than anticipated. It ranks dead last in Pro Football Focus’ ratings and has neither pass-protected nor run-blocked well. This looks like an ideal spot for Crosby to build on what’s already been the best season of his career, as he’s accumulated a league-leading 13 tackles for loss and a second-most 9.5 sacks. Crosby had three sacks, three quarterback hits and a tackle for loss in the victory against the Giants, and it felt like he could have done more. He’ll get his chances against the Jets, especially since he should primarily line up against right tackle Billy Turner, who’s been the biggest liability for the visitors. Turner gave up three sacks and 10 pressures in the Jets’ 27-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday. New York will likely give Turner help and double-team Crosby on most snaps, but that hasn’t done much to stop him so far this season.
“You know what type of game it’s going to be. It ain’t going to be a shootout, I can tell you that.” -Pierce projecting how Jets at Raiders will play out when asked about facing off against another defensively-minded coach in Robert Saleh
“It’s back to the Raider Way of old school with (former players like Ted Hendricks, George Atkinson, etc.). They’re known for being different, the outlaws of the league. When I first got drafted here, that’s what I bought into. I was like, ‘That’s me.’ I felt like I was meant to be a Raider because I don’t fit in in normal situations.” -Crosby on the confidence the team played with under Pierce and the criticism it received for lighting up postgame victory cigars in the locker room
“They said, ‘If you’re able to play through the pain, you can play,’ so we casted it up and went to work…The hand, me and my friends always joke, is a long way from the heart so I always knew I was going to play.” -Linebacker Robert Spillane on playing against the Giants five days after having surgery to repair a broken hand suffered in the first quarter against the Lions, a game he also returned to play in
“I told y’all man: I’m an offensive guy playing defense. I know it took a while to be able to see it, but that’s who I am.” -Robertson after claiming his fourth career interception, and sixth career turnover, with the interception against the Giants
Problematic matchup: Aidan O’Connell vs. Jets’ pass defense
The Jets’ secondary is the polar opposite of their offensive line; it might be the best set of defensive backs in the NFL. New York ranks second in the league in giving up only 5.4 yards per pass attempt. Sauce Gardner is the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and hasn’t slipped a bit in his second season. But he’s probably not even the top-performing cornerback on the roster this year, given that veteran D.J. Reed is rated first in the league at the position by PFF’s grades (Gardner is seventh). Finding yards against the Jets is a tall task for any rookie quarterback, let alone one like O’Connell who wasn’t asked to do much in his first appearance as the full-time starter. O’Connell was effective against the Giants with 209 yards on 16-for-25 passing, but the Raiders were playing from ahead and leaned on running back Josh Jacobs, who had 26 carries for 98 yards, as the focal point of the offense. They might need more out of O’Connell against a tougher Jets side, and the likes of Gardner, Reed and a deep group of safeties won’t make it easy.
Gamebreaker: Cornerback Amik Robertson
It would have been natural to assume that the veteran Robertson’s role would be minimized once slot cornerback Nate Hobbs returned from an ankle injury, but that’s not what has happened at all in the past two games. Robertson has hardly ever come off the field, leading all Raider cornerbacks with 53 snaps played against the Giants. He made the most of the playing time with his second interception of the year, on a deep ball he high-pointed at the goal line and returned 40 yards. The former fourth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech will always be somewhat limited because of his diminutive 5-foot-9 height, but he makes up for it in myriad ways, including his playmaking ability. Robertson’s versatility has also been valuable to Las Vegas coaches, who feel comfortable playing him in either inside or outside coverage spots. It’s now hard to believe that many projected Robertson not to make the roster out of training camp, but he’s long been a favorite of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. The heart he’s shown on a weekly basis has won Pierce over too.
Big Number: 63.6
That’s the average number of yards on A.J. Cole’s five punts last week against the Giants, which set an NFL record. Cole’s titanic leg could play an even bigger role this week against the Jets. Projected to be the lowest-scoring game of the NFL’s Week 10 slate, field position could play a vital role. No one is better at tilting the field-position battle in their team’s favor than Cole. On the season, he’s averaging 52 yards per punt. The Jets’ Thomas Morstead, by comparison, is averaging 48.3 yards. Total yards don’t mean everything, as punting can often be situational, but Cole has excelled in more finesse kicks throughout his career too. Punters are not usually regarded as weapons, but Cole fits the description for the Raiders.
Best Bet (6-3): Josh Jacobs over 70.5 rushing yards
New interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree dialed up a season-high 26 rushes for Jacobs in his first game calling plays, and that doesn’t figure to slow down even if the game against the Jets is closer. Las Vegas wants to be a run-first team under the new coaching regime, and the preference might be even more pronounced here as it emphasizes not asking too much out of O’Connell against a difficult matchup. Hardegree also appeared to make some subtle changes in the blocking scheme to give Jacobs more freedom on which holes he chooses to attack. It all projects well for the rest of the season, including against the Jets, who haven’t been as stellar defending the run as they have been against the pass. The Jets are 22nd in the NFL in giving up 4.3 yards per carry, and Jacobs may boost that number if he looks as renewed as he did in the victory against the Giants.