By Sam McPherson
With two losses in two games already, the 2014 Oakland Raiders aren’t in a good place at all. While their Week 1 loss could have gone the other way with a few different bounces, the team’s Week 2 loss was a blowout from the start. This makes it look like the Raiders actually regressed last week, when everyone wanted to see improvement.
The Oakland squad will find it really tough to improve in Week 3, since they have to travel across the country—and the time zones—to take on the New England Patriots. That’s a daunting game no matter how good of a team you are, and the Raiders (0-2) are not a good team right now, at all.
If the Houston Texans could beat the Raiders so easily in Oakland at the Coliseum, it will be pretty ugly when the Patriots take on the Raiders at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.
The Patriots are 1-1 this year, having dropped a surprising decision in Miami Week 1 before rebounding to thump the Minnesota Vikings on the road in Week 2. Thus, this game is the home opener for New England in 2014.
Tom Brady and his friends have been to the playoffs 11 times in the last 13 seasons, including five trips to the Super Bowl. The Patriots are the model NFL franchise of the 21st century, and playing them is never a picnic.
Patriots on Offense
Of course, it all starts and end with Brady on offense for New England. The 37-year-old quarterback from San Mateo may never throw 50 TDs like he did in 2007 again, but he is still the class of the position along with Peyton Manning in Denver. So the Raiders are used to seeing his caliber of field general on a regular basis.
The Patriots have a few running backs who can hurt defenses: Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. Generally, Ridley is more of the grind-it-out back, while Vereen offers a more dynamic option whether in the running game or the passing game.
In the receiving corps, a lot of the Patriots success comes down to the health of tight end Rob Gronkowski. He’s a nightmare matchup for any defense when he’s healthy and on the field. That’s been his challenge recently. The WR group isn’t what it used to be when Brady was throwing 50 touchdowns, but Julian Edelman is reliable as a possession receiver.
Patriots on Defense
Linebacker Jerod Mayo is the centerpiece of the New England defense, and with Head Coach Bill Belichick’s background, you know the Patriots always have the best schemes they can employ coming at you.
Defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich lead the charge upfront, while Kyle Arrington, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and Darrelle Revis—yes, the one and the same—anchor the secondary.
Overall, it’s a solid group that rarely gets out-coached.
Patriots Players to Watch
Who to watch? Brady, always. Week 1 in Miami, he had to throw the ball 56 times, completing only 29 passes. In Week 2, Brady attempted a mere 22 throws, completing 15 of them. If the offense is humming, Brady’s numbers will tell all. Considering the numbers of Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick against the Raiders defense, Brady will probably have an easy day with the Oakland secondary.
The Patriots offense will have its way with the Raiders if Gronkowski is running losing in the secondary. Oakland really doesn’t have a defender big enough and fast enough to stay with the dynamic tight end, and we know the Raiders can’t stop the run. Be warned.
The forecast isn’t good for the Silver & Black in Week 3. Houston beat Oakland, 30-14, and the Patriots could easily put up 40 points on the Raiders considering the time change and travel at hand. The only good news is that the New England defense isn’t super dominant, so maybe the Oakland offense can get better through the experience.
But expect the game to be over by halftime, much like the Game 2 blowout at home for Oakland.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.