If the Raiders win at New England for the first time in 26 years, they will be 3-0 and would have to be considered a major threat in the AFC.
Let’s look at the keys to victory for the Raiders, who are limping into the game without four starters (receiver Henry Ruggs III, right tackle Trent Brown, left guard Richie Incognito and middle linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski), against the 1-1 Patriots:
Stay as healthy as possible on offense:
The Raiders can’t afford to have any more injuries on the offensive line and at their skills positions, especially considering running back Josh Jacobs and tight end Darren Waller (Las Vegas’ top weapons) are both banged up. They are both going to try to play, but both are questionable on the injury report. Jacobs has a hip injury and Waller has a knee problem. Quarterback Derek Carr relies on both players, so they must gut it out in this game.
Contain Cam Newton:
New England quarterback Cam Newton has been effective in Josh McDaniels’ offense. Newton has been a dual threat and the Raiders defense, which has struggled despite being undefeated, must account for Newton. He is averaging 276 passing yards and 61 rushing yards in two games. Raiders’ linebacker Cory Littleton will likely be in charge of spying Newton and he must be successful or the Patriots could control the time of possession.
Take advantage of Patriots’ defensive weaknesses:
After two games, New England has the worst rated defense on first and second downs. That is an easy way to skip down the field. Surely, Jon Gruden has adjusted his game plan to take advantage of this issue. Now, the Raiders have go execute.
Contain Julian Edelman:
The Patriots’ receiver was Tom Brady’s favorite receiver and Newton has taken a liking to him as well. He has 13 catches and is averaging a whopping 18.2 yards per catch. I can see Edelman and Raiders’ safety Johnathan Abram (a bright light on Las Vegas’ defense so far) having some battles in the secondary. Both are alphas and both like to talk. It should be fun to watch.
Play clean game:
The Raiders have committed just six penalties in two games. It is the second fewest in the NFL behind ... New England. The Patriots have been penalized just five times. The Raiders must assume the Patriots will play another clean game. So, they must do the same. The Raiders watched New Orleans implode with 129 penalty yards last week (the most penalty yardage compiled against a Raiders’ opponent in 10 years). So, the Raiders don’t want to mimic that meltdown on the road.