The Oakland Raiders are traveling east. So far these trips have been a disaster. In their two 10 AM PST starts against the Steelers and Titans, the Raiders have played some of their worst football of the year. A trend they'll have to stop in a hurry, if they want to keep their playoff hopes off of life support. The Raiders are going to have to be on their game to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Over their past five games, the Jaguars have been playing almost as good as anyone in the league. They are 4-1 in that span and they are doing it by dominating in the run game offensively and defensively. Offensively, it all starts with Maurice Jones-Drew. His recent play has inspired MVP whispers. In that five game span, the Jaguars have not rushed for less than 145 yards and they are getting almost a yard per carry more than what their opposition averages.
Defensively, the Jaguars run defense started off slow, but they have picked it up as well. In their last five games, the Jaguars have held all but one opponent under 90 rushing yards. Those five opponents are getting over a half of yard less on each carry against the Jaguars than they are on the season. The defensive turnaround has largely been attributed to the improved play of the Jaguars young defensive tackles, Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton.
The stellar defensive tackle play is just one of the similarities with the Raiders. They are both teams that want to run first, second and third. Last week both teams ran for over 250 yard on over 50 carries. This means that getting an early lead is going to be crucial in this game as neither team is built to come from behind. The battle for the trenches will make this game interesting to watch and it is not the only reason.
There are players on both teams that will be facing their old squads. The Raiders Quentin Groves and John Henderson will be facing their former squad. This past off-season Groves was acquired by a trade and John Henderson was released. Both players were rumored to have not left on the best terms with Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio. Also, Khalif Barnes will be going against his former squad. The Raiders signed Barnes two years ago after the Jaguars failed to offer him a contract. I am sure Barnes is lobbying the coaching staff for another chance to catch a touchdown.
For the Jaguars, Kirk Morrison will be facing the Raiders for the first time since the Raiders made it clear they wanted to upgrade his position and he was traded in the offseason. The Raiders traded Morrison after they drafted Rolando McClain, so it will be worth watching as I am sure Morrison will be giving a supreme effort to outshine the rookie.
For the first time all season, the Raiders don't have much in the way of injuries worth monitoring over the course of the week. Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller, barring a setback, will both play through their injuries. The one person to keep an eye on here is Chris Johnson, who has missed the last two weeks with a groin issue.
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