I had to miss the podcast this morning due to my Patriots padawan falling head-first into our fireplace and requiring a trip to the ER (they super glued him shut and he’s fine) so I didn’t get to share my early thoughts on the Raiders.
After watching both the Raiders games against the Bills and Jets a couple times I am extremely impressed with them. They’re a different kind of beast than the Pats are used to facing, a throwback physical team that plays like the bullies they proclaim themselves to be.
For the Pats offense it’s pretty simple, give Brady time and they should be fine. If Richard Seymour and the Raiders D-line are able to pressure Brady with just four guys the Pats could struggle. But ultimately I think the Patriots should be able to put up points as they always do.
Where the real game planning comes in is against Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. They’re both big, physical backs that are difficult to tackle and they can do everything. Obviously you want to shut them down and force Jason Campbell to beat you, but that’s easier said than done.
Bringing back Gerard Warren will add another big stout presence inside with Wilfork. If Haynesworth can get back on the field it will be even better, but the true key is going to be for the Pats to not lose contain and force Oakland to run up the middle into Wilfork, Warren, Spikes, et al. If Ninkovich, Carter and the other DE/OLBs are sealed off allowing McFadden and Bush to gain the edge they will run for a ton of yards.
The other key will be tackling. Both running backs are so big they almost always gain yards after contact, and that’s if they don’t break the tackle. I worry about a guy like Kyle Arrington being in the slot. He’s fearless and will take the big Raider backs on, but simple physics favors McFadden and Bush. I expect we’ll see the Pats in a great deal of their new (and improved?) 4-3 base defense. This could be the first time all season we see a base defense more than we see subpackages.
Devin McCourty will have a chance to redeem himself against Denarius Moore, who also really impressed me. If the Pats need to put 8 in the box to stop the run it will again put a spotlight on the Pats secondary, and McCourty especially. Oakland is not afraid to throw it up for grabs deep, nor should they be given how the Pats have struggled against the deep ball.
The Raiders are a fun team to watch, and as a football fan it’s good for the NFL to have them back. The Patriots will have their work cut out for them, but early season road trips can always be a good thing for team chemistry. It also presents an opportunity to gain a tie breaker over the Jets.
The key will be to get a lead and force the Raiders to have to throw the ball more than they’d like. Not to say they’re afraid to throw it, as Bill Belichick himself said they’re not afraid to challenge you on every area of the field.
I’m excited to see what the Pats bring. This is a great opportunity to prove what they’ve got against a very solid team.