Will the Patriots make everyone forget about the lost second half in Buffalo? It would help if they did these five things against the Raiders today:
1. Make the Raiders beat you with the pass: Oakland is multi-faceted in the running game with the explosive Darren McFadden, tough inside running from Michael Bush, and the blazingly fast change-of-pace back Taiwan Jones. That’s where they want to live. Make them eat someplace else with QB Jason Campbell, who is good but not capable of carrying a team for four quarters. Of course, with CBs Ras-I Dowling and Leigh Bodden down, this won’t be easy. Expect the Patriots to mix in a lot more zone to help newcomers Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams, and to keep the Raiders’ speed from burning them one-on-one.
2. Set the edge: McFadden is the guy you have to worry about and while he will hit a hole in the middle, he prefers to bounce it outside. The Patriots’ can’t lose contain and SLB Rob Ninkovich must set the edge on the strong side against the tackles, and underrated TE Kevin Boss. The Patriots can’t let McFadden get to the edge. We could again see the return of the 3-4 defense, like we did against the Chargers. Everyone will have to be on point in their run fits no matter what scheme the Patriots use. Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo have to read better and quicker against the run than they did against the Bills, or it’s going to be another long day on the defense.
3. Secondary must tackle: The safeties were terrible at tackling against the Bills – or even being in the correct position to attempt a tackle (Josh Barrett) – and that can’t go on anymore. The Raiders have way too much speed. Because the Raiders like to run outside, the cornerbacks must be sound in their tackling and get off blocks. The Raiders receivers blocked the Jets very well, especially the physical Antonio Cromartie. Patriots cornerbacks are going to need to do better.
4. Press the edge in the running game: If there was ever a game for Stevan Ridley and, perhaps Shane Vereen, to show their explosion, this would be it. The Raiders are weak at linebacker and the ends don’t set the edge very well. Expect the Patriots to try to establish some running with some outside power plays, and use that to set up some playaction deep later in the game.
5. Watch the short passes: Opponents know Tom Brady makes his living on short passes, so they are trying to get in the passing lane more with their arms. It was part of the Bills’ gameplan, and the Raiders are much taller on their defensive line. Brady’s going to need to be careful of the tipped passes, and it wouldn’t surprise if we see many more bubble screens with the WRs. Julian Edelman wouldn’t be a bad option there. But still, the Raiders are awfully tempting to beat deep against a subpar and beatup secondary. This would be a game for Matthew Slater and Chad Ochocinco to make their presence felt. Of course, Brady is going to need protection to get the ball downfield. Always a must.
This is another tough matchup for the Patriots, and playing on the West Coast is not easy. This, again, is going to come down to the Patriots’ defense. It was a no-brainer that previous Bill Belichick teams would take away the No. 1 option for the opposing offense. They have not shown they are capable of doing that. Maybe this is the week the defense finally shows signs of life, but we’re not so sure. We do think the Raiders will make enough mistakes to give the Patriots a big opening. What New England can’t do is fall into a lull offensively for a series or two, which they have done in each of the first three games. Being back home, we don’t see Brady letting that happen.
Patriots 35, Raiders 27.