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Pick Six: How Aidan O'Connell can seize the moment in his first primetime start

1. Primetime AOC

The biggest noticeable improvement in Aidan O'Connell from his first NFL start to his second was how quickly he got the ball out of his hands. While it was something he proved he could do well at Purdue, the rookie quarterback struggled in Week 4's matchup against the Chargers, getting sacked seven times.

However, again the Giants last Sunday, O'Connell had the fastest average time to throw of all starters (2.13 seconds), completing 80 percent of his throws on drop back passes. He'll have to continue getting the ball out quickly against a highly-ranked Jets defense.

"I was really proud of him," interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree said of O'Connell's Week 9 performance. "He did a really good job of getting the ball out on time as far as the passing game, and obviously the running game, it all ties together. For him, he handled certain situations really well. Sometimes throwing a ball away is the right thing to do within that timing of the play. He moved the ball around well; we had a bunch of different targets to different guys. But I thought his management of the game and staying in the game and not doing too much, not pressing, and just kind of letting it come to him was a big improvement."

With a win Sunday, O'Connell would become the first Raiders rookie quarterback since 1976 to win two out of their first three NFL starts.

2. Linebacking corps returning to form

Interim Head Coach Antonio Pierce seems to be a happy camper with the depth of the linebacking corps looking up this week.

The Raiders are on the verge of getting back Divine Deablo (ankle) and Luke Masterson (concussion). 

"It's good to have a full group there. There's has been kind of a Rolodex in that room last two weeks with injuries," Pierce said of the linebackers. "But the one thing about our team is, what I've seen in our staff, is they're willing to get out there. They're willing to fight through injuries and pains and nicks. You'll never be 100% until we get back in January in the offseason. So, for our guys just to get them out there and to have that unit be a glue again, it's really good for our defense."

3. Next man up at right tackle

Kolton Miller (shoulder) is listed as doubtful for Sunday Night Football. Miller, a team captain, is Pro Football Focus' highest graded offensive lineman on the Raiders.

Nevertheless, the Silver and Black should be capable of replacing Miller's production between Jermaine Eluemunor, Thayer Munford Jr. and Justin Herron. Eluemunor and Munford have been splitting snaps at right tackle this season, and one of them could potentially slide over to the left side. 

"[P]art of our process here the last couple of days is just 'next man up' mentality," said Pierce. "So, if it isn't Kolton Miller, it'll be the next gentleman up. Obviously, everybody's been practicing the right way, so if that comes to fruition and we have to move on from Kolton to somebody else, we're not going to blink, and they're not going to blink. We expect him to do the exact same job Kolton Miller does."

4. A salivating defensive line

The Jets offensive line will also be tested without Billy Turner, who was ruled out with a finger injury. Turner has appeared in every game through nine weeks, including a start at right tackle in Week 9. They'll also be without tackle Duane Brown (hip).

The Raiders defensive line will look to maximize against a Jets offense that surrendered eight sacks last Monday against the Chargers. The Silver and Black came away with eight sacks in their win against the Giants, the franchise's most in a game since 2010.

"It really comes down to mentality and details," Maxx Crosby said of how the defensive line can improve. "You can't jump around blocks, you can't guess what's going to happen. You've got to trust your keys and dominate and win your one-on-one [matchups], that's what it comes down to.

"We've got to do a better job up front. It starts with us – the front four or front five. We've just got to keep getting better and I feel like we are. We're moving in the right direction."

5. Elite company for Madd Maxx

What Maxx Crosbyhas been doing this season, in the high volume of snaps he's been playing, has been incredible.

After leading the NFL in pressures and tackles for loss in 2022, he's back at it this season as the anchor of the Raiders defense. Through nine games, Crosby is tied for second in the NFL with 9.5 sacks, tied for first in the NFL in tackles for loss (13) and has the most total tackles among defensive lineman (56). He's looking to join T.J. Watt, Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt and DeMarcus Ware as the only TFL leaders in back-to-back seasons in NFL history.

6. What happened last time

The Raiders hold a 24-18-2 all-time regular season series lead against the New York Jets. Both franchises were AFL staples before the merger with the NFL in 1966. The last time they faced off was Week 13 of the 2020 season, with the Silver and Black coming away with a 31-28 victory in MetLife Stadium.

The Silver and Black get one last practice in at Intermountain Health Performance Center before their Week 10 matchup at Allegiant Stadium.

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