Although the Patriots lost their Week 2 battle with the Seattle Seahawks, there were several positive takeaways. The main one being that the Patriots are capable of playing with anyone in the NFL. This is especially true if Cam Newton continues to play the way he did on Sunday night.
The next test for the Patriots? The Las Vegas Raiders. Without further ado, let’s dive into our preview and prediction for the Week 3 clash.
Details of the Game:
- Las Vegas Raiders (2-0) at New England Patriots (1-1)
- September 27, at 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS
- Patriots lead the overall series 19-15-1
Matchups to Watch:
Darren Waller vs. The Patriots’ Secondary
(NOTE: This assumes Waller is healthy enough to play.)
Darren Waller is a matchup nightmare. Bill Belichick recognized as much in his weekly press conference when he said, “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a guy like this.” Waller stands at 6’6″ and weighs 255 lbs, but he’s got incredible speed and quickness. He’s also one of the best route-running tight ends in the NFL. In two games, Waller has 18 catches for 148 yards.
He’s the number one option for Derek Carr and the Raiders offense. Generally, the Patriots would use Stephon Gilmore to lock up an opponents’ top option, particularly a bigger guy like Waller, but it becomes complicated given Waller’s role in the offense. Although he runs and catches like a receiver, Waller is a key component in the Raiders run-blocking scheme. Do the Patriots want to take Gilmore out of his natural alignment? However, if the Patriots opt to cover Waller with safeties Joejuan Williams, Kyle Dugger, and Adrian Phillips, Waller’s advantage in the passing game is clear.
Ultimately, the Patriots may just throw double teams at Waller and trust their corners on the outside one on one. Although, it certainly wouldn’t surprise us to see Gilmore get his shot to lockdown Waller, similarly to what he’s done with Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce in the past.
Josh Jacobs (and the O-Line) vs. The Patriots’ Run Defense
(NOTE: This assumes Jacobs is healthy enough to play.)
The Patriots’ run defense has been a mixed bag through two games. Against the Dolphins they played well, holding Miami to 87 rushing yards on 3.2 yards per carry. Unfortunately, they took a big step back against Seattle allowing 154 rushing yards on 5.1 yards per carry. The big question is, which run defense will show up this Sunday against Josh Jacobs, one of the best young running backs in the NFL?
Up to this point in the season, Jacobs has rushed for 181 yards. Even more impressive is the power and elusiveness Jacobs runs with. He’s rarely brought down on the first attempt. Jacobs had the most broken tackles in the entire NFL in 2019.
Although Jacobs is a great back, there are some question marks among the Raiders’ run blocking. Former Patriot, Trent Brown, the starting right tackle, missed last game with an injury. His backup, Sam Young, is also injured. In addition, Richie Incognito has been placed on the injured reserve and will miss Sunday’s game. Whether Brown or Young play Sunday is still unclear. The Raiders once again may be forced to rely on veteran Denzelle Good at right tackle, and rookie John Simpson at left guard. Can the Patriots exploit those matchups?
The Patriots’ Passing Game vs. The Raiders’ Passing Defense
It has been a while since we’ve seen the Patriots’ passing game look as good as it did last Sunday night. Newton threw for 397 yards against Seattle, with a majority of the yardage going to wideouts Julian Edelman, Damiere Byrd, and N’Keal Harry.
Looking ahead to their matchup against the Raiders, it’s very possible they hold another advantage in the passing game. The Las Vegas secondary allowed 269 passing yards against Teddy Bridgewater and 312 yards against Drew Brees. The corner group is led by Lamarcus Joyner, Trayvon Mullen, and rookie Damon Arnette, while the safety group features Eric Harris and Johnathan Abram. The secondary has some young talent, but they’ve struggled thus far. Something else we could see from the Patriots is getting their running backs more involved in the passing game. The Raiders linebacker core has struggled in coverage.
Keys to Victory:
Keep Cam Newton Rolling
Cam Newton has been playing at a very high-level through the first two weeks of the regular season. In Week 1 he won with his legs, rushing for 75 yards, but in Week 2 he won with his arm. Whether on the ground or through the air, Newton has been the offense’s best weapon. He brings versatility and unpredictability, which has been a major factor in the early success of the Patriots offense.
In our eyes, continuing to unleash Newton is the best way forward. The Raiders have some major defensive concerns. We’ve already talked about their pass defense, but their pass rush and run defense hasn’t been much better. Newton and the Patriots offense is more than capable of having another big day this Sunday.
Secondary Returning to Elite Form
Coming into the season, the Patriots secondary was recognized as one of the best in the NFL. While that remains the case, their poor performance last week, albeit against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, can’t be ignored. A nice bounce-back performance would certainly aid in getting the Patriots their second win of the 2020 season.
Quarterback, Derek Carr leads the Raiders’ passing attack. He has had a fast start to this season, throwing for 521 yards and four touchdowns and zero interceptions. With that being said, the biggest concern for the secondary is previously mentioned, Darren Waller. Aside from Waller, the Raiders have a very inexperienced, but solid recieving core. Led by rookie Henry Ruggs III, they feature a ton of speed. Fellow rookie, Bryan Edwards joins him at wideout. Slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and veteran Nelson Agholor supplement the two rookies. This isn’t a bad passing attack by any means, but it’s not near as dangerous as Seattle’s.
Win the Battles Up Front
Ultimately, the Patriots’ best chance to leave Week 3 with a victory is to win the battles in the trenches. It starts with the defensive line. We talked about their need to improve in the run game, but that’s not all; they also need to generate some sort of a pass rush to help out the secondary. Against Seattle, the New England pass rush was non-existent barring blitzes. That needs to change this Sunday.
As for the battle between the Patriots’ offensive line and the Raiders’ defensive front, it’s one the Patriots should win, whether in pass protection or run blocking. Thus far, New England’s offensive line has been exactly what we thought they would be, one of the top units in the NFL. Isaiah Wynn looks like a star in the making, David Andrews is making a massive impact, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason remain a top guard duo in the NFL, and even Jermaine Eluemunor has played well. (NOTE: David Andrews status for Sunday’s game is up in the air with a hand injury.)
Meanwhile, led by Johnathan Hankins and Clelin Ferrell, the Raiders’ defensive line will try to improve from weaker performances in weeks prior. On paper, this is a matchup the offensive line should take advantage of.
27-20 Patriots over Raiders
The Raiders are no doubt a good team so they’ll keep it close, but we think the Patriots win with another strong performance from the offense, as well as a bounce-back game from the secondary.