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Raiders-Patriots Week 15 preview: New England’s defense, the good and bad

There are both reasons to be excited and worried about facing Bill Belichick’s defense

New York Jets v New England Patriots
Josh Uche
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

The New England Patriots come into their Week 15 game at the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday (kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PT) at 7-6 and right in the AFC playoff hunt.

The Patriots have been fueled by typically strong defense as the offense has been uneven in their first year without longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who, of course, is having his own struggles as the head coach of the Raiders.

The Patriots’ defense, which is the sixth-ranked unit in the NFL as it is allowing 312.6 yards a game, has been a mixed bag recently and while there are reason for McDaniels to be worried, there are also opportunities. Let’s check it out.

Reason for hope:

The Patriots’ defense have been leaky in the run recently. They have allowed a total of 245 rushing yards in the past two games, against Buffalo and Arizona, and have allowed both teams to complete several passes to their running backs, Overall, New England has the 23rd rank run defense in the NFL this season, allowing an average of 111.3 yards a game and 4.2 yards per carry.

That will be noted by McDaniels and his offensive coaching staff. Of course, the Raiders’ ground game has been strong in both rush attempts and getting the ball in the air to running backs. It, of course, starts with Josh Jacobs. He is leading the NFL with 1,402 rushing yards and has 44 catches and is on pace for a career-high 57 receptions.

The Raiders are 5-1 when Jacobs runs for 100 yards and are 0-7 when he doesn’t. So, getting him going is Las Vegas’ best chance at a victory over New England and the opportunity is there.

Reason for worry:

The Patriots having been putting big heat on the quarterback. It starts with second-year linebacker Josh Uche. He has been on a tear. Uche has 10 sacks in the past six games and he had three in Week 14 against Arizona.

New England is third in the NFL with 45 sacks this season. Linebacker Matthew Judon is tied for the NFL lead with 14.5 sacks. The Raiders’ offensive line has allowed just 23 sacks, tied for the fifth fewest in the league.

It will be a huge test for them this week and could go a long way to determining the outcome of the game.