The Oakland Raiders have traveled across the country to Jacksonville, Fla., to battle the Jaguars in a Week 14 match up. The Raiders look to carry their momentum and confidence gained in last week's important AFC Western Division win over San Diego to this week's game against the leaders of the AFC South. The Silver and Black will contend with an offense led by QB David Garrard and RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who is currently 2nd in the NFL in average yards per carry, and a defense with CB Rashean Mathis and former Raiders LB Kirk Morrison.
The Raiders are looking forward to playing meaningful games throughout the rest of the month of December. "We're all excited," said Head Coach Tom Cable. "Let's keep doing what we know helps us be successful. I think that's the approach, stay focused on what we know we are and what works for us. Don't let the distractions in. If we can continue to do that then we have a chance but it is very exciting."
The Raiders next challenge is a Jacksonville team that is fighting to stay atop its division. "They're playing pretty well and feeling good about themselves so anytime you have a team that's on the rise and feeling good about themselves, and everything's coming together for them, it kind of makes you need to play harder the next week," said T Khalif Barnes. "They have a good thing going on and we have a good thing going on, so I think on Sunday it's going to be two good teams out there fighting each other."
Barnes and the rest of the offense will face the Jaguars 4-3 defense. "They play very aggressively, they get after you," said Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson. "They have good players. We're on a collision course. They're after something and we're after something. We have to go to their place and get it done. So we have to pack our best game and do what we do as well as we've ever done it before."
RB Darren McFadden understands that the Raiders need to go out and play their game no matter what kind of defense they face. "We haven't played many 4-3 teams this year, not lately anyway," said McFadden. "But it's something you just have to know what you're doing when you go out there and just run the ball like you can."
McFadden's counterpart on the Jaguars, Jones-Drew, will be one of the biggest challenges for the Raiders this week. "He's a talented back; you definitely have to go in and get him down on the ground with good tackling because he will stiff arm you, I think you have evidence of that from the last game," said LB Kamerion Wimbley. "He's definitely a powerful guy, good speed, good vision, downhill runner; everything you want in a running back."
Coach Cable remembers Jones-Drew from his college days when Cable was at UCLA. "He's the same guy he was back then," said Coach Cable. "He's short in stature in terms of his height so he's hard to find. That's really what's tough for you defensively here. Then once he hits a hole he hits it with a lot of power and really quick. He's a difficult task. Those guys in front of him are blocking pretty good right now. We've got to try to find a way to slow him down."
LB Quentin Groves played with Jones-Drew on the Jaguars for two years and knows his capabilities. "All kudos to 'MoJo,' he's having a great season," said Groves. "He's a hard guy to tackle so you've got to wrap him up, bring your feet, and try to tackle him low. It's kind of tough, but he's having a great season."
The Raiders defense has been preparing throughout the week to deal with Jones-Drew. "He's the one that gets the offense going," said FS Michael Huff. "He's the one that keeps the chains moving. We know we have to go out there and stop him."
The Jaguars have other weapons on offense besides their star running back, including WR Mike Thomas and TE Marcedes Lewis. "They're going to try to get it out to number 80 and Marcedes," said Barnes. "You can't let David [Garrard] out of the pocket, David makes a lot of plays; he's kind of like a [Steelers QB Ben] Roethlisberger, makes plays on his feet, is a big guy. So they've got a few dimensions that we have to counter."
"The key I think after the run game is being able to contain the quarterback," explained Coach Cable. "Garrard is a very good athlete, good on his feet and has great escapability."
The Raiders will try to duplicate the performance they had against San Diego's QB Philip Rivers, in which the team had four sacks and numerous quarterback pressures.
"I've played him before; I think he's a quarterback who can hurt you with his arm or running," said Wimbley. "So we definitely have to contain him, that's the only thing that I can say that we'll have to do in order to be successful against them."
Huff knows the importance of pressuring Garrard consistently. "He's tough, he's relentless," said Huff. "He can get hit and beat around but when you need a ball he puts it in the right spot. So the main thing is just keep hitting him and getting after him."
After studying the Jaguars tendencies and adjusting to East Coast time throughout the week, the Raiders are ready for the tough match up in Florida. "This is a street fight, there's going to be no qualms about it," said Barnes. "What it comes down to is their front seven against our line, and our line against their front seven, and the bigger boys are going to win that day."