Raiders intent to keep focus in home opener vs. Jets (Sep 17, 2017)
The Raiders open what likely will be their penultimate season in Oakland on Sunday against the New York Jets, and they have arguably their best team since returning to the Bay Area from Los Angeles in 1995.
The Raiders, slated to move to Las Vegas in 2019, had some strong teams at the turn of the century.
The 2000 club ran into the buzzsaw that was the Baltimore Ravens' defense in the AFC Championship Game and they were thwarted by the New England Patriots in the famed "Tuck Rule" game the following year.
They made it as far as the Super Bowl in 2002, only to be defeated by their former coach, Jon Gruden, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But this year's team has some extra panache, with a superstar young quarterback, two standout receivers, a stud pass-rusher and even the addition 'Beast Mode' out of retirement. Still, after a strong 26-16 Week 1 win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, the Raiders aren't planning any victory parades just yet.
"Game 1, Game 1. Like (Patriots coach Bill) Belichick, we're on to next week," said last season's NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, who had 11 sacks and five forced fumbles in 2016.
In come the lowly Jets, listed as two-touchdown underdogs on Wednesday, in what is expected to be one of the most lopsided matchups of the week. New York is coming off a 21-12 loss to the Bills in which 38-year-old quarterback Josh McCown, a former Raider, threw for 187 yards and two interceptions.
The Jets also allowed a league-high 190 rushing yards to Buffalo, including 110 to LeSean McCoy. On Sunday, they get the pleasure of facing running back Marshawn Lynch, who recorded an eventful performance in his first game out of retirement.
In addition to flipping television cameras a few hand gestures, Lynch barreled over 300-pound defensive tackle Jurrell Casey as part of his 76-yard performance. On Sunday, the 31-year-old Lynch will be making his first start as a Raider in his hometown of Oakland.
"I was like, this is a guy who just retired and re-entered the league and he's still one of the top running backs," New York defensive end Leonard Williams said. "It's pretty amazing to see that."
Ten of his Lynch's carries 18 carries against the Titans came in the fourth quarter as Oakland was trying to drain clock.
"He looks better than ever," Jets head coach Todd Bowles said about Lynch. "He actually looks quicker. Laterally, he looks just as good as he always has."
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the team this offseason, has recovered nicely from a broken fibula in Week 16 last season. The 26-year-old completed 22 of 32 passes against the Titans for 262 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Carr, who has won nine of his last 10 starts, found Michael Crabtree six times for 83 yards against the Titans. He also connected with Amari Cooper on five occasions for 62 yards and a touchdown. New Raiders tight end Jared Cook also had five catches for 56 yards.
"You can't pinpoint one area with these guys. They have a lot of weapons," Bowles said. "They are very well-balanced and they are very well-coached. You have to play sound across the board. ... They'll take what you give them, and they are pretty good at everything."
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio had kind words for the Jets as well, especially the defensive line, which he called "one of the better fronts in the league."
It's "as talented as any that we'll face," Del Rio said. "They're very aggressive in their scheme. The two safeties they drafted (Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye), we think, are really good football players. I know I liked them both, grading them out of the draft.
"... Offensively, they have two backs (Matt Forte and Bilal Powell), that are very good, very capable. Have a history of doing good things in this league."
The Jets and Raiders last met in 2015, as Carr led Oakland to a 34-20 win with 333 passing yards and four touchdowns.