Following an impressive win in their home opener against the New York Jets on Sunday, the Raiders set their sights on another worthy opponent this week, the New England Patriots. While the Patriots may be more highly acclaimed than the Jets, the two teams have played some good match-ups over the past few seasons. People didn't give the Raiders much of a chance against a team that has been in the AFC Championship game for two years running, yet they came out and won impressively. People aren’t giving the Raiders any shot at all of winning this weekend, but they may have a different agenda than the people.
The New England Patriots are good and they have been good for a long time. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. This is a team that has three Super Bowl rings in four appearances with this quarterback and coach combination. Everything else hinges around that relationship and are just interchangeable pieces of the puzzle. With that said, this game has huge implications in the playoff picture for the 2011 season.
It may be a little early to be talking about playoff pictures, but let’s face it – the whole country knows that both of these teams have a legit chance to be playing in January. The Raiders have a legitimate chance to prove that the Patriots' young and overhauled defense will succumb to 500 yards of offense against any opponent this year. They have the offense on Sunday to keep that ball rolling.
On the negative, the Patriots are coming off a loss on the road last week. No team in the NFL is better at winning after a loss than the New England Patriots. But the Raiders have a lot of confidence coming into this thing. The Raiders are about 30 seconds away from an undefeated record. Who knows what could have happened if they had used their two timeouts to save them a little extra time in the Buffalo game. Perhaps they’d be the 3-0 team headed into this week. I’m sure Head Coach Hue Jackson learned a lot from that trip across the country.
However, this week is week four and Buffalo was a year ago, as far as the timetable of the NFL is concerned. The main point is that the Raiders are a significant challenge for any defense, and the bottom line is their defense is better than the Patriots'. The Raiders' defense has a chance to become special this year, and frankly, the Patriots' defense has a long way to go before they approach decent. So this game is going to be competitive regardless of the outcome.
The Patriots can put up 30 points on the most complex and effective defenses in the league. Meanwhile, the Raiders have averaged over 30 points per game over their last eight contests. Those who think this game is not going to go down to the final drive are kidding themselves. The biggest factor on that final scoreboard is whose defense is going to make more plays when it matters.
“We understand it’s a big game... it’s even bigger than last week’s game,” said quarterback Jason Campbell at his media session Wednesday.
The Raiders lost to the Bills in similar fashion in week two as the Patriots did in week three. The Raiders were up 21-3 at halftime while the Patriots carried a 21-0 lead at one point in the contest. Both teams ended up losing to the Bills in Buffalo. The Raiders came out and won their next game at home against the New York Jets. The Patriots will be looking for a similar result. They are at a disadvantage, however, because they are not playing in their home opener this weekend. They have to fly across the country to play a team that probably wins 9 of 10 against the Bills.
Coming into this contest, the Patriots know that the Raiders' most dangerous threat is Darren McFadden. The Raiders ran the ball well in their victory over the Jets last week, so the Patriots will likely look to stop that from becoming an open wound on Sunday. But the Raiders have an above average passing attack that they showcased in Buffalo, passing for over three-hundred yards and three touchdowns. That passing game is still not highly regarded around the league. Thus it could turn out to be a surprise to some teams this year. Just as hard as it is to stop the Raiders' ground game – it’s going to be as hard to stop their passing attack when you are shutting down the run.
This team is far from one dimensional. The Raiders have as much talent on this offense as any team in the league. The biggest advantage of the Patriots in Oakland on Sunday is going to be their experience. The Raiders' offensive squad is very young and inexperienced for the most part. They have a lot of growing to do as a unit before they become an annual playoff contributor. The Patriots on the other hand have more than a few crafty veterans, especially on offense. This is going to be another one of those epic battles played on the grass of the O.co Coliseum.
Sunday is going to be the second straight sellout of the O.co and that hasn’t happened since 2002. What this means is that the Raiders are on the verge of something special here, and everybody knows it. People don’t spend that kind of money to see mediocre football. With the twelfth man on their side Sunday, the Raiders have just as much of a chance at winning this game as they did winning the Jets game last weekend. They have just as much of a chance to win this contest as the visiting Patriots do. That’s something you couldn’t say one year ago.
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