If there’s one area the New York Jets appear to have a definite edge over the Oakland Raiders, it is special teams.
The two teams meet Sunday in the AFC Divisional playoffs in Oakland after meeting in the regular season on Dec. 2, a game the Raiders won 26-20. One key to that victory was Oakland having the edge in that area. The Raiders will need to minimally break even here on Sunday.
New York has an outstanding return unit while Oakland’s coverage units have been spotty. Chad Morton averaged 26.0 yards on kickoff returns, second in the AFC behind New England’s Kevin Faulk. He also has two touchdowns. Santana Moss averaged an AFC-high 16.5 yards on punt returns and also scored a pair of touchdowns. Oakland yielded an average of 24.7 yards on kickoffs and 14.1 on punts.
“They are the best,” said Raiders backup cornerback Brandon Jennings, who plays on special teams. “We know we outplayed them in the last game. It’s all about being disciplined and staying in our lanes.”
In the first meeting, Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals. In addition, the Raiders’ Rod Woodson blocked a John Hall field goal to stuff one Jets drive and Adam Treu recovered a muffed Morton punt to set up a touchdown. Moss, however, had a 29-yard punt return to set up a Hall field goal and Morton had a 58-yard kickoff return that was offset by Woodson’s blocked field goal.
“We actually held him in check but what the media remembers is the one he got loose,” said Oakland backup running back Randy Jordan, who is a special teams standout. “We can’t allow that. The big thing is that we look forward to the challenge. We have to create good field position.”
For the Raiders, Marcus Knight has taken over the kick return chores since Terry Kirby was placed on injured reserve. Knight has averaged a solid 24.3 yards per return. Like the rest of his teammates, Knight believes Oakland needs a similar effort against New York’s special teams Sunday as it received in December.
“We had to show the world we were on our way up,” Knight said. “I just try to stay focused on my responsibility and take care of the ball.”
Vince D’Adamo can be reached at email@example.com