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Obi Melifonwu could be the missing piece to save the Raiders’ season

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The emergence of the Raiders second round safety would play a major factor in the Raiders potential success of the stretch run.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

After the bye week, the Oakland Raiders will be traveling to Mexico City to face the New England Patriots in a game that will decide the fate of the Raiders’ 2017 season.

If Oakland can find a way to grab a victory over the Patriots, and with the faltering New York Giants and Denver Broncos coming to town a possible four-game winning streak and a spot in the AFC Wild Card driver’s seat could easily become reality.

Standing in the way of that is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick; arguably the greatest quarterback and head coach tandem in NFL history,

Considering the Raiders’ defense gave up 311 yards and three touchdowns to Jay Cutler, who quit on the Chicago Bears and retired at the conclusion of the 2016 season, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see Oakland give up 500 yards passing to Brady.

New England has Brandin Cooks — who burned Oakland for 143 yards and two touchdowns in 2016 while with the New Orleans Saints — along with the greatest match-up nightmare in the league; tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Immediately, it is obvious that Cooks and Gronkowski will need to be doubled team throughout the game; especially Cooks. Unfortunately, Reggie Nelson is way too slow to be of any help over the top against Cooks and has no hope of containing Gronkowski.

So what can be done with this dilemma? Obi Melifonwu.

Before, it wasn’t impossible to bench Nelson as there was no possible replacement in sight. But now Melifonwu can be the savior.

The former UConn Husky combines his large 6-foot-4 224 pound frame with 4.40 speed. On paper, he is the perfect player to cover Gronkowski, which is why Reggie McKenzie drafted him with the No. 56 overall pick in April.

Now with Gronkowski (somewhat) dealt with, the Raiders can finally put a safety, Karl Joseph, in the center of the field to cover sideline to sideline and take pressure off the struggling cornerback corps where outside of TJ Carrie, the trio of David Amerson, Sean Smith, and Dexter McDonald has been getting torched consistently.

Amerson is expected to return and while Gareon Conley’s status will be known by next week. Oakland should see a boost to the secondary as Amerson was the team’s No. 1 corner from 2016. Conley’s return could be equally important. The rookie top pick has the team’s second highest Pro Football Focus player rating, albeit in limited time.

Even if the two aforementioned cornerbacks returned it does not promise success. It’s the addition of Melifonwu that has the potential to fix the team’s most pressing need and give the Raiders a chance to neutralize the Patriots’ offense just enough to let Derek Carr take over the game and bring Oakland one step closer to making a miraculous run at a playoff berth.