This trip is a big stop for the Raiders if they want to continue on the road to the playoffs, and I liked what I watched during the team’s final practice in California.
Tyrell Williams practiced with the starters for the first time since he injured his foot a month ago. Williams gives the Raiders a deep receiving threat and elevates Darren Waller to a more dangerous level. Among tight ends, Waller is elite.
How the team discovered Waller is unique. Last November while playing at Baltimore, Jon Gruden and OC Greg Olson were watching the Ravens practice squad work out before the game. After Waller grabbed several passes and showed his athleticism, Gruden said: “Who is that guy?” The Raiders signed him the following week.
For the first time this season, the Raiders’ starting O-line is ready to go. Trent Brown, who missed the Green Bay game, is back at right tackle, playing next to Gabe Jackson for the first time. Center Rodney Hudson quarterbacks the unit with Richie Incognito and Kolton Miller on his left.
If the defense can hold up its end of the bargain, the Raiders can jump into the thick of the playoff battle.
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Whether or not Sam Darnold starts seeing his Jet receivers rather than the “ghosts” he saw Monday night against the Patriots remains to be seen. But one thing is abundantly clear about this dreadful New York team. Coach Adam Gase is in way over his head. Let me count the ways.
1. He came to the Jets by way of the Miami Dolphins, a franchise he left in so much trouble that it is now emulating an NBA team by tanking for higher draft choices.
2. Under Gase, Ryan Tannehill did not improve as a quarterback, and now he is playing for Tennessee.
3. Gase’s lack of communication skills was underlined this week when embattled offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele said he hadn’t spoken to the coach in weeks. This was despite the fact that Osemele and the Jets medical staff were arguing publicly about whether he should undergo shoulder surgery. No capable commander leaves anybody behind. Contrast that with Jon Gruden’s backing of troubled receiver Antonio Brown all the way to the exit.
4. Gase’s failure to game-plan Le’Veon Bell as a receiver is mind-boggling. Outside of Todd Gurley, Bell’s dual-purpose ability with the Steelers was what made him so valuable. Monday night against the Patriots’ stifling defense, Gase should have designed quick swings and screens to Bell, who caught only one pass for six yards.
Instead, Darnold forced passes down field against the best secondary in the NFL. Five turnovers later, the Jets are reeling as they limp into Jacksonville on Sunday with a head coach who has mastered the Peter principle.
Give me the Jags –6½, please.
My three-team, six-point teaser this week: Jags –½, Panthers plus 11½ (they always play well against the 49ers; 9-1 ATS at San Francisco) and Chiefs plus 9½. I have a bias toward backup QBs in their first starts. Figure coach Reid will design good plan vs. the Packers. Have to score TDs against Aaron Rodgers.
Cash some tickets this weekend, because that’s what it’s all about.