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Patriots News 12-18, Key Matchups Against the Raiders

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
2 months ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Patriots News 12-18, Key Matchups Against the RaidersKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning. The Patriots take on the Las Vegas Raiders later this afternoon, as the game was flexed out of SNF. They are still in a precarious situation in regard to the playoffs.

With the win over Arizona, the Patriots leaped over the Chargers and Jets and are currently a game behind (plus the tiebreaker) in the standings to the Dolphins. 

At this point, it is one day/game at a time. Now is a perfect time to watch the out-of-town scores. The Dolphins, Jets, and Chargers all have tough matchups this week (this is written on Friday night), so we’ll be interested to see how it goes. 

But regardless of those, the Patriots have to win in Vegas. And they have a good chance of pulling it off, if they play up to their potential.

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and the NFL:  

Injury Front: The Patriots will be down three starters this week and perhaps more when they face off with the Raiders this afternoon. Damien Harris, Jalen Mills, Isaiah Wynn, and DeVante Parker were all ruled out of the game. 

Jakobi Meyers, Rhamondre Stevenson, Jack Jones, Yodny Cajuste, and Joe Cardona are all questionable. Although Meyers, Jones, and Stevenson all returned to practice on Friday.

J.J. Watt: The former three-time Defensive Player of the Year was very impressed with the Patriots’ Matthew Judon during Monday night’s game and told an Arizona staffer that he wanted to talk to Judon after the game. This was picked up by HBO on the “Hard Knocks” show featuring the Cardinals.

When the two met after the game, the respect was very mutual. “Hey, you played your balls off, brother,” Watt said to Judon. “I appreciate you,” Judon responded in kind.

“So much respect, man,” Judon told Watt. “You’ve been doing this for a long time, and we’re all watching, man. We’re all following you, man.”

Matthew Judon: Speaking of Judon, the co-leader of sacks in the NFL is crying foul on the NFL after another big performance on MNF against Arizona for continuing to select him for a “random drug test.” which he says has happened too many times to be random. And he was pretty blunt about it.

“Leave me the F alone, please,” Judon tweeted to the NFL and NFL Players Association, attaching the text telling him to report for testing. “It’s (sic) no way this is random. I take melatonin to sleep sometimes. The rest is just vibes.”

Judon reacted with humor after the Buffalo game, but if one reads between the lines, it is obvious that it was already getting old with him.

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I looked at the Cardinals’ game and looked ahead to the Raiders.  

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Quick Matchup Notes against the Raiders: 

The Patriots and Raiders got together this summer for joint practices and a preseason game (I know, you can’t count preseason games as a barometer), and the Raiders definitely got the better of the Patriots. At the time, they looked primed to be a factor in the AFC West. 

But they got off to a horrible start this season before getting hot and stringing together some wins before melting down against the Rams and Baker Mayfield. Now, at 5-8, the playoffs are about out of touch for them. They have to win their final four games and get a lot of help to get in. 

Here are our key matchups for this afternoon:

Add 6th OL: With the Offensive Line continuing to struggle this season and facing a Raiders’ tandem of Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones, who is finding his form after a slow start to his season. If I were Bill Belichick, I would add an extra OL as an eligible TE and put him on Crosby’s side, which would help pass protection and help in the running game.

They’ve been using Hunter Henry as a blocker, but they need him running routes and attacking the seams. Besides, blocking edge rushers isn’t Henry’s strong suit. They must give Mac Jones time to get the ball down the field. Throwing a dozen bubble screens isn’t going to get it done.

Plus, having an extra OL will help the running game, which has been steadily trending downward. Against the Cardinals, while the Patriots ran for 102 yards (4.9-yard avg), a total of 77 yards came on just three carries. 

Start Fast and Make Vegas One-Dimensional: The Raiders have been a fast-starting team that collapses late in their lost games. But the Patriots aren’t built for that type of scenario. They’d struggle to win that kind of game. 

And with Josh Jacobs, the Patriots don’t need to fall into a hole early and have Jacobs grinding out yards and killing the time clock. In his last three games, Jacobs has gained 472 yards rushing and nearly 100 more receiving. 

This is a week for the Patriots to get an early lead and keep the pressure on Las Vegas, forcing them into more of a passing team. I know it sounds crazy with Derek Carr, Devante Adams, along with Hunter Renfrow, and Darren Waller coming off of IR. But with the Patriots’ edge rushers (Judon, Josh Uche, and Deatrich Wise), they could force Carr into making mistakes or getting sacks. 

Get The Intermediate and Long Passing Game Going: Matt Patricia got the benefit of the doubt early in the season (at least with me) because installing a new system is never easy. But the poor OL play and his lack of creativity in the play-calling department has made the offense much less productive, although the skill position players are better this year than last season’s.

He has to put Mac Jones and his skill position players in a position to succeed. And for the most part, this season, he has failed to do so. Jones, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Henry, Jonnu Smith, and rookie Tyquan Thornton are not being utilized correctly. 

Thornton has long speed; to best take advantage of his speed, he needs to be targeted beyond 10-12 yards. Ditto for Bourne and Agholor, who have speed. Instead, they’re running bubble screens and running 4-5 yard routes. The offense has to start opening things up (and having an extra OL would help) and stretching the field horizontally and vertically. It is well past time.  

Prediction: Patriots 24-21 and move to 8-6.

Week 15 Game Predictions:

The slate of games for Week 15 and my predictions are straight up for this week. There are no more bye weeks in the season.

Thursday Night Football

Niners over Seahawks  1-0

Saturday

Minnesota over Indianapolis 2-0
Baltimore over Cleveland
Buffalo over Miami

Sunday

Philadelphia over Chicago
New Orleans over Atlanta
NY Jets over Detroit
Pittsburgh over Carolina
Dallas over Jacksonville
New England over Las Vegas
Kansas City over Houston
Denver over Arizona
Cincinnati over Tampa Bay
LA Chargers over Tennessee

Sunday Night Football:

Washington over NY Giants

Monday Night Football:

Green Bay over LA Rams

 

Last Week:          8—5

This Season:   131—74—2

Last Season:   182—88—1

2020 Season:   169—86—1

2019 Season:   162—93—1

______________

“Yeah, as I think I’ve said, the biggest thing with Josh [Uche] is just him being out there. He’s always put good plays on film and good plays on the practice field, and he’s flashed. This year he’s been able to stay out there on a consistent basis and that’s allowed him to continue to move ahead and build on his repertoire, build his communication and execution with his teammates on pass rush games and communication, drops, coverage adjustments, and things like that, which he’s involved in, to a degree. 

“Just doing that on a consistent basis, day after day, week after week. That definitely piles up and makes it that split second faster. Whether it’s your reactions, communication, or anticipation. I think those have really been the biggest things. He’s been out there since the start of the offseason program, off at training camp, and all the weeks in the regular season. 

“That wasn’t really the case the last two years. I think that’s been a big thing. He’s always worked hard, and always done everything you’ve asked him to do. He’s been great to coach, but I think just his availability this year has affected his production.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick asked about Josh Uche and his meteoric rise in play during the past two months.

_______________

“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Darren Waller Deatrich Wise Derek Carr Devante Adams Josh Uche Kendrick Bourne Las Vegas Raiders Mac Jones Matthew Judon Maxx Crosby Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets Patriots edge rushers Tyquan Thornton

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