The Patriots currently rank fourth in the NFL in offensive points per game with 28.6 and first in yards with 409.4 per game. The point is, the Patriots offense is just as we expected, one of the best in the league. Tom Brady has been predictably great, tossing 19 touchdowns to only two interceptions through nine games, despite the bevy of injuries to skill position players throughout the season.
After starting 2-0, the Oakland Raiders stumbled, losing four-in-a-row before winning two of the last three heading into their bye week. Their offense has been middle of the pack, ranking 17th in points for and 22nd in yards per game. The defense, on the other hand, has been a bottom third unit for most of the season. In particular, their inability to create turnovers (they have 0 interceptions this season) has hindered them greatly. Now, they face the quarterback who is best at protecting the ball.
The Patriots will likely be without Chris Hogan for another week but it shouldn’t slow down the offense. The return of Martellus Bennett has given Brady another weapon and added another dimension to the ever-evolving Patriots offense. Rex Burkhead is arguably one of the most versatile players in the NFL. He will line up in the backfield, in the slot, out wide, and excel at every position. Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph, David Amerson, T.J. Carrie and the rest of the Raiders secondary will struggle to contain all the receivers, backs, and tight ends the Patriots will throw at them.
Opposing quarterbacks have completed 71 percent of their passes against the Raiders defense this season. They allow 7.4 net yards gained per pass attempt (NY/A), the fourth worst in the NFL behind only the Colts, Giants and the Patriots. Brady’s mark of 7.33 NY/A is third best in the NFL and should only increase against the Raiders. Brady’s ability to spread the ball to just about everyone in every game will keep the Raiders defense from settling down and dictating play.
In addition to the overall strength of the Patriots offense, they are one of the best teams in the league in converting third down attempts. The Patriots convert on 45 percent of their third-down conversion attempts, good for fifth best in the NFL. On the other hand, the Raiders are one of the worst teams when trying to prevent third-down conversions. The Raiders defense allows opposing offenses to convert on 45 percent of their third-down attempts. Good for 29th in the NFL. Not a good recipe when their main focus is trying to get Tom Brady off the field.
In his career, Brady owns a 3-1 record against the Raiders in the regular season, throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions. In the playoffs, he is 1-0 with one interception, one rushing touchdown, and no fumbles. Expect Brady to add to those numbers in Mexico City.
A year ago, this was a likely AFC Championship preview. Now, it is just another stepping stone for the Patriots in their path back to the Super Bowl.
– Ian Glendon is the National Editor for cover32 and the Managing Editor for cover32/Patriots. He covers the NFL and New England Patriots. Like and follow on Follow @iglen31 Follow @cover32_NE and Facebook.