In a rematch of last season’s divisional playoff game, Chad Pennington and the struggling Jets travel to Network Associates Coliseum for the sixth time in four years as they take on the lowly Raiders.
Oakland defeated New York 30-10 last January on its way to a loss to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. Last season, the Jets and Raiders went into the playoffs as two of the hottest teams in the league. This season they are a combined 2-12.
Quarterback Rich Gannon, who won the league MVP with the Raiders last season, is expected to miss two more weeks with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and backup Marques Tuiasosopo injured his knee during the Raiders’ 23-13 loss to Detroit last week, and has been placed on injured reserve.
“We’re in big trouble, man,” Raiders left guard Frank Middleton said. “Our No. 1 quarterback is out. Tui’s hurt. Rick Mirer is the last one standing. What happens when he goes down? The way we’re going, we need five quarterbacks.”
Oakland is forced to give the starting duties to the 33-year-old Mirer, who played with the Jets in 1999, after he made his first appearance last Sunday since playing one game for San Francisco three years ago. He went 15-for-28 for 125 yards with two interceptions.
Rob Johnson was signed to back up Mirer. Johnson played two games with the Washington Redskins this season before being cut. The nine-year pro, originally drafted by Jacksonville, spent four seasons as a part-time starter in Buffalo from 1998-2001.
The Raiders, however, have more problems than just their quarterback.
Coach Bill Callahan met with cornerback Charles Woodson on Wednesday after being criticized by the four-time Pro Bowler.
“I had a conversation with Charles today,” Callahan said after practice. “It was very positive. We’re moving forward.”
Twice in five days Woodson complained about the second-year coach. Woodson said Callahan was stubborn and had lost control of his team, and that the Raiders were falling apart.
The Jets are coming off a 31-28 overtime loss to the Giants last week.
Pennington made his first start since breaking his left wrist in the preseason, and passed for 281 yards and four touchdowns.
Pennington, who led the Jets to the AFC East title last season, led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives that forced the overtime. He completed 27 of 45 passes, three times finding Santana Moss for touchdowns. Pennington also hit Anthony Becht with a 9-yard scoring pass to tie the game with 29 seconds to play in regulation.
“Thank God we have eight opportunities left to do something,” Pennington said. “Now we have to go out to Oakland and deal with a good mind and play like we did today. If we do that, things will start to turn our way.”
Pennington, who developed a great working relationship with Laveranues Coles before the receiver left for Washington in the offseason, worked well with Moss on Sunday, connecting 10 times for 121 yards. Moss’ three touchdowns and his 10 catches were career highs.
However, Pennington will be without one of his other top targets. Wayne Chrebet will not play because he still has headaches and feels tired after sustaining a concussion against the Giants.
Pennington’s worst start came last season in the playoff game against the Raiders. He was sacked four times, threw two interceptions and was held to 183 yards on 47 pass attempts.
The Jets have lost five of their last six trips to Oakland, including a 38-24 playoff loss two years ago.
“I think our team feeds off that crowd and we love that hostile atmosphere,” Pennington said, referring to the Coliseum’s vaunted “Black Hole”. “If you don’t, you’re beaten before you even step out on the field.”
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