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Raiders-Patriots Week 15: 5 things to watch

Can Josh McDaniels bounce back against his mentor?

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders
Chandler Jones
Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders are trying to bounce back from another tough loss as they host the New England Patriots in Week 15. Kickoff is Sunday at 1:05 p.m. PT. Let’s look at five keys to the game in a week in which the Raiders can be eliminated from playoff contention:

Can Josh McDaniels outcoach Bill Belichick:

McDaniels has had a rough first season in Las Vegas and thus, it has continued a rocky NFL head-coaching career. He is just 16-25 as an NFL head coach. He has made several odd decisions this season and it’s clear he is not yet comfortable as a head coach. He will try to bounce back from his latest flub, turning a 13-point fourth quarter lead over the Rams into a loss, against his mentor, Belichick. Of course, McDaniels has enjoyed his only NFL success as the longtime offensive coordinator for Belichick in New England. These two know each other well and exploiting weaknesses will be part of the game plan. Let’s see if McDaniels can get one over on his mentor. Remember, the Raiders and Patriots scrimmaged for two days and played a preseason game in Las Vegas in August. The Raiders dominated all three outings. Was that part of Belichick’s plan to prepare for this game?

Get the ball to Davante Adams:

The wide receiver is having a monster season — when he’s getting the ball. In the four games the Raiders blew double-digit leads, Adams had seven or less targets. He’s had more in the other nine games and the Raiders are 5-4 in those games.

According to the Associated Press, the Raiders are 0-4 when Adams is targeted seven times or less in a game.

Adams is a special weapon. McDaniels has to keep calling his number.

Keep the pass-rush up:

The Raiders’ pass-rush has been strong in the past four games as they have registered 13 sacks in that period. That’s a huge turnaround after they registered just 10 in their first nine games. They must keep it up, especially Chandler Jones who has four of his 4.5 sacks this season in the past two games. He’s been a menace of late and surely he will be inspired to have a big game against the Patriots, the team that drafted him.

Be better in the red zone:

As usual, the Raiders have had trouble in the red zone this season. It was supposed to be better with Adams on the field and McDaniels in the playbook, but it hasn’t worked. The Raiders were awful inside the Rams’ 20-yard line in Week 14, continuing a season-long trend.

Quarterback Derek Carr was intercepted in the Rams’ end zone late in the first half. Per ESPN, it was his 14th red-zone interception since joining the NFL in 2014. It is tied for the most in the league since in that time span. Carr has been a common denominator in the Raiders’ poor play in the red zone. And he is struggling again this season.

Belichick can coach some defense, of course, so the Raiders are going to have to find a way to find the end zone in this game.

Stop the turnovers:

Through 10 games, the Raiders committed an NFL-low seven turnovers. They’ve lost six turnovers in the past three games, five on Carr interceptions. He has been picked off 10 times. For a team that consistently plays one-score games (10 thus far), that can be a problem. It has to be cleaned up and fast.