NFL Week 3 Preview: New England Patriots - Oakland Raiders

The New England Patriots (1-1) will look to get their offense on track this week in their home opener against the Oakland Raiders (0-2). The Patriots return home after a Week 2 30-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense was decent against the Vikings, but make no mistake, a Chandler Jones' blocked field goal return for a touchdown, and four interceptions were the reason the Pats won the game. The Patriots’ offense only totaled 292 yards, as the defense did all of the heavy lifting.

The Raiders are heading to Foxboro coming off of a 30-14 rout at the hands of the Houston Texans. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr has been pretty good so far this season, but he does not have much help around him. Starting running back Maurice Jones-Drew missed last week with a hand injury, and he is questionable for this match-up against the Patriots.

Defensively, the Raiders have been dominated in the ground game, allowing the most rushing yards in the NFL after two weeks. Last week, Stevan Ridley ran for 101 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. The week before it was Shane Vereen leading the Patriots on the ground. New England has a balanced rushing attack that should be able to move the ball at will on the ground against the Raiders.

While the ground game has been pretty good, the Patriots have been average at best through the air. Through two games, Brady has completed 43 of 77 passes for only 398 yards, he also has two touchdown passes without an interception. Decent numbers, but everybody knows that Brady is capable of much more.

Star tight end Rob Gronkowski is still getting re-acclimated in the offense, once he can start making a full contribution, expect Brady’s numbers to soar. So far, Julian Edelman has been the clear star out of the receivers. Through two weeks, Edelman has 12 receptions on 15 targets for 176 yards and a touchdown. Edelman does an incredible job of getting open on underneath routes. He also has very reliable hands, and Brady clearly has full confidence in him.

While the Raiders have given up the second fewest passing yards throughout this short season, those numbers are severely skewed by game flow. Not to mention, the two quarterbacks they have faced thus far have been Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Nothing against those two, but they simply are not on the level of Brady. Expect the Patriots to try to get their passing game going in this one, and use the run game if they need to.

Through two games in his career, Carr has somewhat surprisingly been pretty good. He has completed 47 of 74 passes for 414 and three touchdowns. He has also thrown two interceptions. Carr’s 80.6 quarterback rating is impressive for the first two games of his career, and it is even better than Brady’s 78.8 rating after two games.

Carr is an athletic quarterback with a very strong arm. He is not afraid to push the ball down the field to his talented wide receivers. Between Denaruis Moore, Andre Holmes and Rod Streeter, the Raiders have a young core of receivers with some serious upside. Leading them on the outside is first year Raider James Jones, who has hauled 12 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns on the young season. Jones will almost certainly receive the attention of Patriots’ cornerback Darrell Revis in this one.

Bill Belichick will definitely have some tricks up his sleeve defensively to try and confuse the young quarterback. Carr has shown some nice ability thus far, but the Patriots’ defense looks much improved, and should have no problem preventing the Raiders from scoring.

Including the playoffs, the Patriots were 9-0 at home last season. They have also won the last three games that these two teams have played. The Raiders have lost 12 out of their last 13 games away from home. While New England has not looked as strong as they have in the past, this is still a very good football team that will not have any problems with the Raiders. All signs point to a Patriots’ victory.

Expect Brady to come out throwing early, as they looks to put Oakland away quickly.

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