By Mike DeVito
The Patriots need to be prepared for Oakland to give them their best shot. The Raiders are 4-5 and need this win to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. Head coach Jack Del Rio has never lost in Oakland coming off a bye week, but the monkey wrench in this one is that the Raiders are sacrificing a home game to play this one in Mexico City. With mile high expectations before the season left unfulfilled thus far, I’d have to imagine that the Raiders would love to be playing this game in the Black Hole rather than at Azteca.
When the Patriots have the ball
The Pats need to attack Oakland’s secondary. The Raiders are allowing 250 yards through the air per game. Cue the Jeff Solari Stat of the Day music: the Oakland Raiders do not have an interception this season. Not one. To have played nine games and not come up with a pick yet is incredible but speaks to how futile the Oakland secondary has been.
Not helping the problem is the pass rush for the Raiders has been abysmal. Khalil Mack has only 4.5 sacks and he’s still be the best part of this defense. I expect Josh McDaniels’ game plan to specifically focus on getting the ball to Rob Gronkowski, who will likely be covered by rookie safety Obi Melifonwu, who made his debut on November 5th against Miami. With the addition of really solid blocking tight ends, Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen, I expect Gronk to be out on pass routes more with Bennett and Allen picking up more blocking assignments. (Prediction: watch for Gronk on that seam route he and Brady love to run. Against an inexperienced safety, Gronkowski should be able to sneak behind the secondary and run wild.)
When the Raiders have the ball
Stop Oakland’s Three Big C’s: Carr, Cook and Cooper. Quarterback Derek Carr is having a better season than it seems completing 65% of his passes. Wide out Amari Cooper has been up and down but has had some game changing production. Jared Cook is Carr’s favorite target and the team’s leading receiver, from the TE spot none the less.
Oakland has to realize at some point that they are built to run a gap scheme with that big offensive line and running back Marshawn Lynch. The run game has been absent so far but it can easily get turned around at any point. New England’s defensive line has to be ready for it. The Raiders could stumble onto this path to success, if their game plan attempts to control the ball, in an effort to win the time of process and keep the ball out of Brady’s hands.
Prediction: Patriots 34 – Raiders 24
Mike DeVito is a Maine alum and veteran of 9 season in the NFL with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. Mike is a guest host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live on DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.