The New England Patriots travel across country to face the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. The Patriots have started their season 2-1, and they have another tough challenge in week 4. The Pats continue to have a bit of an injury bug, so their depth could be tested yet again. Here are a few thoughts on the upcoming game -

- Prepare for a fight: Even though the Raiders may not be poised to make a Super Bowl run this season, the Patriots should not take them lightly. They will be playing in Oakland, traveling across country, and facing a team that seems to have circled New England on their calendar; anything can happen. Hopefully, the Pats come out firing on all cylinders and capture momentum early.


Tom Brady should be able to take advantage of a banged up Oakland secondary. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- Running game in focus: The Raiders have a solid one – two combo with Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. This combo, leads the NFL in rushing and McFadden, in particular, has had an impressive start to his 2011 season. The Pats ability to contain Oakland’s running game will most certainly be the key to victory. If New England let’s the Raiders control the tempo, they could be in trouble.

- Protect Tom Brady: Yes, I know this seems obvious, but this will definitely be the match-up to watch on Monday night. The Raiders front seven, including former defensive lineman Richard Seymour, are salivating at the thought of sacking Brady on Sunday afternoon.

The Patriots offensive line has done a great job this season, including rookie right tackle Nate Solder .He’ll need to continue to do so, too, with Sebastian Vollmer downgraded to out on Friday evening. Hopefully, the line can keep Brady and give him enough time to run the offense properly.

- Spread out Oakland’s defense: The Raider’s secondary are banged up and their depth is shallow. Cornerback Chris Johnson is out with a hamstring injury and Oakland has three safeties on the injury report. If New England can spread out the Raider’s defense, Tom Brady should be able to pick them apart, if he is given an appropriate amount of time.

- Be prepared for anything and everything: Hue Jackson, Oakland’s Head Coach, has done a superb job of opening up the playbook so far this season. He incorporates a wide-range of plays and the team has caught opposing defenses off guard this year. I hope the Patriots are prepared for some trick plays and some outside the box thinking from the Raiders offense. If the Patriots let their guard down, they could get burned.

With all of these thoughts taken into consideration, I believe the Patriots can win this game, but there are some definite concerns. The Pats are pretty banged up and their injury situation is worrisome. While I believe the Patriots could struggle containing Oakland’s run game, I am confident they get the win on the road. My prediction is Patriots – 31,  Raiders – 20.

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