By Sam McPherson
For two NFL teams down on their luck and probably out of the postseason chase, the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders still have four games left to play, and as they prepare for their Sunday matchup at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, both teams are injured and wounded—in more ways than one.
Start with the visiting Raiders, who at 4-8 are all but eliminated from the postseason—especially considering they have to face the Denver Broncos (10-2) and the Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) still in division play. Oakland has all three of its running backs facing injury challenges this week, and that doesn’t bode well as the Jets (5-7) are the top-ranked run defense in the NFL this season.
New York is surrendering just 77 yards a game on the ground right now, and the team gives up just 2.9 yards per attempt. For the Raiders to do better than that, they’ll need Rashad Jennings (concussion), Darren McFadden (ankle) and Jeremy Stewart to be healthy—and that’s not happening for Oakland right now, at all. Jennings has been limited in practice this week as he tries to clear concussion protocols for game time, and McFadden hasn’t practiced all week.
These injury concerns could be a major problem for the Raiders, as the third-string Stewart hasn’t practiced this week, either. Oakland was going to have trouble running the ball as it was, and now it may just be a lost cause for the Silver and Black. Stewart has just two carries this season, anyway.
The Raiders top wide receiver, Denarius Moore, is listed as out still for the Jets game, as he’s missed the last two contests with a bad shoulder. Meanwhile, starting right guard Mike Brisiel is listed as questionable after leaving the Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas with an injury.
Defensively, Oakland may get starting strong safety Tyvon Branch back, although his status is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game as he returns from a broken leg suffered in Week 2. He did practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. The only other defensive concern for the Raiders is weakside defensive end Jason Hunter, who is listed as questionable.
This bodes well for the Silver and Black, as the Jets do not have a stellar offense.
And New York’s offense has struggles at both quarterback and wide receiver heading into this contest, although the QB issues aren’t because of injuries; the wide receivers issues, however, are purely injury-related for the Jets. The best WR on their roster, Santonio Holmes, still is nursing a hamstring issue, and he will be limited on Sunday. Meanwhile, the opposite starting wideout, Stephen Hill, is listed as probable for the game, and he did practice this week.
(The Jets still have an experience issue at QB, so whether it’s Geno Smith or David Simms, the Raiders will need to shut down the New York passing game, and Branch’s return should help in that task.)
On the defensive line, New York defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was limited in practice this week due to an ankle injury that has been ailing him all year, but expect him to play and help the Jets contain the Raiders running game. Starting cornerback Antonio Cromartie has some challenges with his hip that limited his participation in practices this week, so look for the Raiders to try to exploit that matchup on the outside through the air if it looks like Cromartie is struggling in the cold weather Sunday.
Opposite starting cornerback Dee Milliner has been banged up, but he was fully engaged this week in practice.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.