Finally, it’s Patriots week! A game circled by many to start the season, the Raiders take their 4-5 record to Mexico City to face the current #2 seed in the AFC, the New England Patriots. The AFC East leader is riding a five game winning streak and is playing at a high level right now. The Raiders, coming off their bye week, should be rested and mentally prepared to take on the defending Super Bowl champions in Mexico this weekend.
To get you ready for this much anticipated matchup, here are three keys to a Raiders victory on Sunday.
- Get Pressure on Tom Brady
This is definitely easier said than done, but necessary to have any hope in this game. Tom Brady has been flawless the last three games throwing for 848 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions and completing nearly 71% of his passes. So, the only way you can try and slow down the future hall of famer and this potent offense is by getting pressure from the defense. Khalil Mack is due for a monster game and Bruce Irving is coming off a solid game in Miami. The rest of the defensive line, Mario Edwards and Eddie Vanderdoes, need to step up this weekend to give the struggling secondary any hope. Hopefully Jack Del Rio and the defensive coaches designed some creative ways to get Mack going and to allow Edwards more opportunities to control the line.
- Get off the Field
It’s no secret Ken Norton’s defense has had their issues this season, but one area that’s killed them in key situations this season is their third down percentage. The Raiders defense is second to last in the NFL with 45.7% conversion rate on third downs. On the other side of the field, New England’s offense (behind Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels) is fifth in the league in converting third downs. Therefore, Norton’s unit will have to minimize those conversions, to allow more opportunities for Derek Carr and company to score.
- Tackle Better
Some stats are mind boggling. Somehow the Raiders, before the Dolphins game, only had 35 missed tackles. That was the second best total in the NFL, only behind Norton’s last team the Seattle Seahawks. Watching the Miami game two weeks ago, it seemed like they doubled that mark.
They now face a fast, strong and athletic receivers group from New England. The Patriots have one of the best red zone weapons in the game with TE hybrid Rob Gronkowski and WR speedster Brandon Cooks dominating on the outside. Gronkowski is so strong and Cooks is so fast, tackling them and limiting their yards after contact is crucial to avoiding the big play. You factor in the multitalented running group of James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, and you have a bunch of guys who can make a play in the open space. Guys like Obi Melifonwu, Reggie Nelson, NaVorro Bowman and TJ Carrie will need to be almost perfect on tackling the Patriots ball carries. If they’re not, it will force the offense to score 30+ points to stay with the Patriots.
Similar to the Chiefs game, this game will test the Raiders in multiple facets of the game. The offense, led by Derek Carr and that talented offensive line, will need to play crisp and smooth to control the time of possession. The defense, highlighted with all three keys this week, will need to play their best game.