After more than a decade of futility, the surprising Oakland Raiders are showing signs of becoming a factor in the AFC West in coach Jack Del Rio’s first season.
The New York Jets’ highly ranked defense, however, could be a major roadblock.
As the visiting Jets look to rebound from a frustrating defeat Sunday, the Raiders will try to move above .500 after seven games for only the second time in 12 years.
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Oakland (3-3) has the most losses in the NFL with a horrendous 59-139 record since reaching the Super Bowl after its last winning season in 2002. Del Rio’s squad, though, is bringing some excitement back to the East Bay behind emerging offensive stars Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray, along with a talented young defense.
Carr completed 24 of 31 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday, Cooper had five catches for 133 yards and a score, and Murray added 85 rushing yards and a TD as the Raiders built a 31-point lead before holding on for a 37-29 win at San Diego.
"I’m never surprised with (Carr)," general manager Reggie McKenzie said of his 2014 second-round draft pick. "He wants it bad. He’s a competitor. He’s smart. He’s going to find a way to get it done.
"Even if he slips and has a bad game, bad plays, or whatever, he’ll bounce back."
Cooper, 14th in the NFL with 86.5 receiving yards per game, became the first rookie to have three 100-yard efforts in his first six games since Mike Ditka in 1961. Michael Crabtree is also on pace to top 1,000 yards – a mark no Raider has reached in a decade.
Since a 20-point opening loss to Cincinnati, Oakland’s last five have been decided by eight points or less, including a 16-10 home loss to unbeaten Denver on Oct. 11.
"I feel like we’re growing," Del Rio said. "I feel like we’re getting better. And I think we all recognize that there’s still a lot to be done, there’s still a lot of work in front of us."
Things figure to get a lot tougher as Oakland tries to surpass last year’s win total.
New York (4-2) has seven sacks over its last three games after dropping Tom Brady three times in last Sunday’s 30-23 loss at AFC East-leading New England. Muhammed Wilkerson has a team-high five on the season.
The Jets own the league’s top rushing defense with 71.5 yards allowed per game after holding the Patriots to 16 – their fourth-fewest total in franchise history. They’re also likely to assign star cornerback Darrelle Revis to Cooper.
New York is looking to bounce back after leading unbeaten New England 20-16 with less than 13 minutes remaining before Brady went 14 of 17 with two scores down the stretch.
"We’re onto the next game here and trying to figure out the best way to attack Oakland," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said.
"In every game, you’re going to learn stuff and there’s some stuff that we learned from, whether it was situations or whether it was different routes or the way that we called certain plays, we’ll get better each and every game."
Fitzpatrick won’t hesitate to go back to Brandon Marshall after his string of four consecutive 100-yard receiving games ended. He also had a key drop in the end zone in the fourth quarter and was called for a false start penalty that ended the game.
The Raiders allow a league-high 303.8 passing yards per game, but they have seven interceptions in their last five after turning two picks into 10 points against San Diego.
"Oakland played a heck of a ball game (Sunday)," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "We know we have to move on. We know what kind of fight we have …"
Chris Ivory ran for 312 yards on 6.4 per carry over his prior two games before being held to 41 on 17 attempts while dealing with a tight hamstring Sunday. His status is uncertain against Oakland, which is third against the run at 84.3 yards allowed per game.
Safety Calvin Pryor (ankle) also could be sidelined along with center Nick Mangold (neck), who’s listed as questionable. Receiver Eric Decker, second on the team with 24 catches, is also questionable with a sore knee.
Oakland linebacker Neiron Ball will likely miss a few weeks with a knee injury.
The Raiders have dropped six of the past eight meetings, including a 19-14 loss at MetLife Stadium last season. Ivory led the Jets with 102 rushing yards and a touchdown.