Forget about Darren McFadden. Yes, he is without question the MVP of the Oakland Raiders. That being said there is simply no equal for Sebastian Janikowski. As we inch closer to Sunday’s kickoff there is still much that is up in the air regarding the Raiders. While most of the talk has been concentrated on the potential debut of Carson Palmer the news of Janikowski’s hamstring woes is proving to be a bigger story.
Without the best kicker in football the Raiders would be in a tight spot. Oakland hasn’t exactly been blowing teams out of the water despite some very impressive performances. As hard as it is to believe, Janikowski’s mega leg could be equal in value to all of the services Run DMC provides.
Just look at that dramatic win in Houston. What kind of a tribute would have been paid to Al Davis had Sebass not been lights out in that game? Even last week’s special teams stunner against Cleveland was partially linked to Janikowski. Hindsight being 20-20, it is easy to assume that Shane Lechler’s surprise pass to Kevin Boss was more about Jano’s health than it was an attempt to sucker punch the Browns. However, unless you’ve got a weapon like Janikowski then pulling off a fake so perfectly at the NFL level is pretty much impossible. Sure, you can get a big gain but without the entire world focused in on the best leg in football there is no way a big man like Boss goes 35-yards to the house without getting so much as a finger nail on his jersey.
Without putting too much on a potential loss of Janikowksi, this Sunday there is some serious concern should the clash with Kanas City be one of those close AFC West contests. The Chiefs are rapidly improving after a horrific start. With Kansas City just one game out of true contention in the division there is no reason to think this one won’t be a nail bitter.
Jano’s mere presence makes teams think twice about tragedy.
If Todd Haley is pitted with a late game decision of punting or going for it on 4th with the ball near mid-field you’d better believe he’ll think twice if Seabass is warming up on the sideline. The threat of Janikowski alone can cause coaching strategies to be rethought on the fly.
We still don’t have any official word on Jano but you already know what Hue Jackson will say if his kicker can’t go – “next man up.” Problem is there is no next man. These are the kinds of challenges every team faces during the course of an NFL season. It’s just very rare to have a kicker mean this much to a team’s playoff hopes.