By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots (2-1) are coming off of a disappointing 34-31 loss to the the Buffalo Bills on the road, and now are back in action on Sunday to face the the Oakland Raiders (2-1) on the road at O.co Coliseum. Here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live Sunday on WBZ-TV Channel 4 at 4:15 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
GAME NOTES: The Raiders are coming off of an impressive 34-24 victory against the New York Jets in their home opener. They bounced back nicely from a late loss the week before on the road in Buffalo.
These two teams have not met since 2008 when Matt Cassel led the Patriots to a victory in Oakland. The Black Hole is not an easy place to play once again as the Raiders are on the road back up towards the top of their division.
On defense, the Raiders strength is definitely on the defensive line. Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour lead this unit that will be looking to control the line of scrimmage against the Patriots. Since being traded from the Patriots, Seymour has been a force in Oakland, and has started this season very strong as he already has 2.5 sacks, and 10 tackles. The Patriots will need to contain their old teammate in this game.
Rolando McClain leads the group of linebackers for the Raiders as he already has 23 tackles in 3 games. He will be controlling the middle of the defense.
The Raiders could be taken advantage of with their secondary. They are currently 28th in the NFL against the pass, and Tom Brady could have a big day once again through the air. Chris Johnson, one of their starting cornerbacks, is listed as out for this game. Michael Huff is a quality free safety, but he is listed as questionable with a concussion. The Raiders defensive backfield could be under serious fire in this game.
On offense, this unit is led by an impressive running game which is ranked 1st in the NFL. Darren McFadden leads the NFL in rushing as he already has 393 yards with an incredible 6.4 yards per carry. They also have Michael Bush who is solid in the running game as well. The Patriots will have their hands full slowing down the Raiders run attack.
The weakness of the Raiders offense is quarterback Jason Campbell. He is really a game manager, and can be tentative at times throwing the ball. The Raiders are currently 26th in the NFL in passing. However, they do have some big play ability with rookie Danarius Moore who has some serious speed.
This is a game where the offenses could rule by leaning on what they do best. The Raiders are playing very well right now, and will be tough to beat at the Black Hole. However, I will take my chances with Brady against the Raiders secondary to take control of the game. I do like the Patriots to pull away in this match-up.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The Patriots need to contain the Raiders running game led by Darren McFadden. This key is very obvious but very important to focus on. The Raiders are going to want to control the game, and keep Brady off the field. What better way to do that than with the leading running back in the NFL? The Patriots need to be stout against the run, and force the Raiders into putting the game in Campbell’s hands.
2. It is time to play an attacking style of defense and get after Jason Campbell. I am hoping this is the game we see the one gap, and get the same up the field defense we saw in the second pre-season game against Tampa Bay.
Campbell is tailor made for this style, as he tends to hold on to the ball too long. This is the game to unleash Jerod Mayo, and also send secondary players on blitzes. I would attack him the entire game. This style could also work against McFadden, as you could be plugging up holes in run blitzes. If the Patriots aren’t aggressive in this game, I don’t know when they will unleash it.
3. The offensive line needs to stop Richard Seymour. I have a pretty strong feeling that Seymour will be highly motivated to be disruptive in this game and get at Brady. I expect Seymour to be double teamed often, and I hope that does the trick because he’s still playing at an All Pro level.
4. The Patriots should use their “hurry up offense” the majority of this game. Again, this style of offense could be tailor made to put serious pressure on the Raiders. Their secondary is weak, and you could really exploit them as the “hurry up” could really tire that defensive line from getting pressure on Brady.
Also, the “hurry up” could get the Patriots ahead early, and I don’t think the Raiders are built to come from behind with large deficits. This style of offense could really put the Patriots in control of this game.
5. Deion Branch or Chad Ochocinco need to step up and be another option for Brady. I think the Raiders will concentrate on stopping Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, so these two wide receivers could be needed to pick up the slack.
Branch is still dependable but was not a factor in the loss in Buffalo. Ochocinco made a few mistakes against the Bills, and this is the opponent for him to redeem himself. If either of these players have significant receptions in this game, the offense could be in great shape.
The Raiders are playing well, but I think the Patriots match up very well with this team. It might be close for awhile, but I do expect the Patriots to pull away in the second half, and I am predicting a 31-17 victory for the Patriots.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.