For this week's Thought From the Other Side, I caught up with Ricky Keeler over at Foxboro blog. As usual I threw questions his way and he tackled them, all with the sole purpose of helping Raider fans to better get to know their next opponents from the perspective of someone who knows them best. Here are my questions and his answers.
1. Tom Brady has always put up big numbers for the Patriots. But this year he is on a record pace. Why do you suppose he is on such a tear?
"I think he is on a tear because he is out to prove a point. Now, what exactly does he have to prove? After that tough loss to the Jets in the playoffs, there were people saying that Tom Brady's era of success was over. They draft Ryan Mallett in the 3rd Round and people are asking Brady how much he has left? He is on a tear to show the NFL that he is still Tom Brady and he is still the best in the National Football League. Plus, he cut his hair now after a four interception game against the Bills, so the rest of the league needs to look out for this offense."
2. Do you see Chad Ochocinco breaking out any time soon, and could it be against the Raiders?
"I thought last week with Aaron Hernandez out that Chad could break out, but that did not happen. He actually took a step back with that dropped touchdown that resulted in a fourteen point swing for the Bills. This is a complex offense and it takes a while with a shortened offseason to learn the playbook and develop chemistry. Tom Brady is not going to worry about if Chad is not playing well because he has so many targets. I have heard from Patriot fans that they would rather have Randy Moss than Chad. I will not go that far just yet, but Ocho Cinco needs to step up before he turns into Ocho Stinko."
3. The Patriots lead the league in yards per play at over 7. But they also led the league in yards given up per play. Do you think the offense can continue to overcome the poor defense?
"For the first couple of months, I think they can. When the weather gets colder, the defense will have to play better. We saw this same story last year where the defense was really bad in terms of yards early, but they matured as the season progresses. In December, they played some of their best football. Look, the yards given up need to go down, but they still take away the ball more than anybody else and that should count for something for the defense. Plus, they are a top ten team in stopping the run. If Brady is on this tear for all sixteen games, then he can, but it is tough to expect. I look to November for when the defense will begin to take its shape."
4. Do you think the Patriots' offensive line will be able to handle Richard Seymour and Co. on the Raiders' defensive line?
"It is a tall order and I think the Raiders will get their share of sacks, but in the end, I think the Pats' offensive line will stand up to the challenge. The concern for me though is right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. He is still battling injury, which ruins the depth at the offensive line position now that center Dan Koppen is out for the season. 1st Round pick Nate Solder is now getting more playing time, but I would rather have Vollmer in the lineup. Richard Seymour you know will have his guys ready to play. He wants revenge in this ball game before being dumped to the wayside by Belichick. So, look for Oakland to get some sacks but I think New England's O-Line holds them off at the right time."
5. Do you see the game versus the Bills as a fluke or showing some chinks in Tom Brady's and the Patriots' armor?
"I didn't think the Bills would win the game on Sunday, but I thought that Buffalo would compete in the game. They have a lot of good pieces and I thought they would be at least an eight win team coming into the year. As far as the game goes, I think the chinks are there in the Patriots' armor, especially in the vertical passing game as we discussed before. I don't think Campbell can hurt them like Fitzpatrick did, but it does concern me. Plus, I did not think having Aaron Hernandez out would be that big of an impact. If the MCL becomes more serious, then Ochocinco will have to step up or Tom Brady will continue to force more and more throws. New England is still a great team, but they are not invincible in the AFC East."
6. Who is the player on the Patriots that no one is talking about, but is a big reason for their success this season?
"I can't really pick someone on the defensive side of the ball right now, so I will go with Deion Branch. Branch goes under the radar with all those weapons on the receiving crops. He had as many catches in the first two games as Wes Welker and he is very comfortable with Tom Brady at quarterback. However, he only got targeted three times due to New England having to go to more four wide receivers with one healthy tight end. Branch came to New England in basically a trade for Randy Moss last year and made an impact right away. He is another weapon in the arsenal but he can't be a game changer unless the Pats have two tight ends in Hernandez as well as Gronkowski."
7. Who do you see winning between the Raiders and Patriots, and why?
"The Patriots are angry and you know they never lose two games in a row. I don't think this will be a blowout, but the Raiders are banged up at wide receiver. Although they have Boss and last week's hero, Denarius Moore, they don't have weapons that scare you other than Darren McFadden. The Patriots' defense needs to take the next step and start getting after a quarterback like Jason Campbell. Brady might turn the ball over once, but not four times. He is out again to prove a point. If they had won last week, I would think they lose this game because of the look ahead to the New York Jets next week. However, look for more use of the ground game and a Patriot victory."
Patriots 31 Raiders 20
To see my answers to his questions, CLICK HERE