If I know one thing, it's that the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is going to be rocking this Sunday when the Oakland Raiders host the New York Jets in the Silver and Black's 2017 home opener.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio's group will look to continue its hot start and get to 2-0 with a win over Josh McCown and the Jets, but before kickoff officially reaches us, it's time for this week's edition of the Raiders.com Mailbag.
**From Cam B: How much will Gareon Conley play against the Jets?
EP:Well, that's the question that everyone wants to know, and for good reason. After not playing last week against the Titans – or throughout the duration of the preseason – the Raiders first-round draft pick has become quite the mystery man as far as Raiders fans are concerned. While we don't know just how much Conley will actually play this Sunday, here is what we do know; after being a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, Conley was a full go both Thursday and Friday, and was officially taken off the team's Week 2 injury report. While being removed from the injury report isn't necessarily the green light that he'll end up going from whistle to whistle with the base defense, what it does mean is that he should have no physical limitation when he does indeed take the field. One thing to keep an eye an too as far as Conley's playing time is concerned… cornerback Sean Smith is heading into Sunday's game officially listed as "questionable" with a neck injury.
From Steven C: I know the Jets didn't win last week, but what do they do well?
EP:When discussing the strengths of the New York Jets, you have to start with the big fellas up front on their defense. Head Coach Del Rio said that New York boasts one of the best front sevens in the NFL, and as man who has spent his life studying football, I'm inclined to believe him. Also, any unit that has Pro Bowl defense end Leonard Williams on it is a force to be reckoned with, and I'm sure Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice's group knows the sizable challenge they have in front of them Sunday at the OACC. It seems like year in and year out that the Jets pride themselves on stopping the run, and while they did give up a staggering 190 yards on the ground to the Buffalo Bills last week, I figure that's going to be more the exception than the rule. To answer your question though, I think the real strength of the Jets lies in their defensive front seven, but hey, don't sleep on Josh McCown either. You don't stick around in the NFL for a decade and a half if you can't do a little something throwing the football.
From Bo P: What's the key to victory this week?
EP:I'll borrow a phrase from Head Coach Del Rio and say balance. Since the Derek Carr era arrived in Oakland, the Silver and Black have been at their best when they boast a balanced offensive attack. Now, we all know that Carr is more than capable of sitting in the pocket, slicing and dicing a defense apart and throwing for 400 yards every week, but that doesn't necessarily equate to playing winning football, especially down the stretch of the season. In a perfect world, the run game complements the aerial attack, and vice versa, and I think that recipe for success will run true once again this Sunday. I'd love to see Marshawn Lynch get rolling – particularly in his first regular season game at home – and if the team's trio of backs can all start grooving and control the clock, it's going to be hard for the Jets offense to go score for score with Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing's group. Defensively, I think the keys are simple, just limit big plays, and stay stout on third down. The Raiders defense enjoyed a strong debut against the Titans, let's hope they keep it going.
From Andrew R: Is this a "trap" game?
EP:I might be in the minority here, but I really don't think there's any such thing as a real "trap" game in the NFL. There are 32 teams in the NFL, and every, single player on each of those teams is a professional. They get paid to do a job, and playing football is how they provide for themselves, and for their families. The gap in talent – while there certainly is one – is nothing like it is in college, so no one team can afford to take another one lightly. Now, if we're being objective and looking at the Raiders and Jets rosters, has General Manager Reggie McKenzie built up a group that – on paper at least – is on a different level than the Jets? Yes, but a wise man once said anything can happen on Sundays. Head Coach Del Rio and his staff have made a point this week of making sure the Silver and Black are locked in, and not taking the Jets lightly. I think that message was heard loud and clear.
From Josue C: Will Khalil get his first sack this week?!? GO RAIDERS
EP:Great question, Josue, and between you and I, I think this is the week No. 52 registers his first sack. Check this out, in 2016, the New York Jets allowed 35 sacks – for comparison, the Raiders allowed just 18 – and while 35 sacks was middle of the road last year, as we all know, Khalil Mack is no middle of the road defender. We have a tendency to overhype, and overanalyze sack numbers – myself included – but at the end of the day, that metric in particular seems to always get a little blown out of proportion. As a dominant edge rusher is it important to get after the quarterback? Absolutely, but there is so much more to playing a complete, defensive game than just tallying sacks. But I digress. To answer your question, I really do think this is the week that Khalil meets Josh McCown up close and personal. He's going to be gassed up playing at home, and I just think that at some point, that Jets offensive line is going to crack, and Mack is going to take full advantage.
From Erich S: What's your favorite part of the home opener?
EP:That's easy, the noise. Raider Nation travels really, really, well, and home games at the OACC are something I think every NFL fan should witness at least once, but there's nothing like a home opener. Fans have been waiting nearly nine months to cheer on the Silver and Black in a meaningful game, and they're going to make sure their voices are heard from whistle to whistle. There's a special kind of energy at a home opener, and I can't wait for Sunday afternoon. Kickoff against the Jets is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PDT.