One team has scored a total of 34 points in the last two games while the other has produced a meager three in the same time span. Neither has scored more than 20 points through the first five games of the 2023 campaign.
That’s the tale of the tape for the host Las Vegas Raiders (2-3 overall) and visiting New England Patriots (1-4) — the only two teams in the league that haven’t surpassed the 20-point threshold. It’s the matchup of the NFL’s two lowest-scoring teams as Las Vegas’ 79-point output places them 29th in the league while New England’s 55-point production is dead-last.
Compounding matters for the Patriots is the fact the Bill Belichick-led defense has provided little resistance allowing a total of 131 points (25th most in the league) for a horrid -76 point differential. Only the New York Giants (also 1-4) have a worse point differential at -91 (62 points scored, 153 allowed). Flip the script to Belichick’s former pupil, Josh McDaniels, and the Raiders defense (led by Patrick Graham, a former Patriot himself), is ranked 22nd in the league in points allowed (114). The McDaniels-orchestrated Raiders offense is ranked 29th points scored (79), however.
While both offenses have struggled, Las Vegas hasn’t been shutout or held to single digit point totals. New England was severely limited in a 38-3 drubbing by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4 and blanked by the New Orleans Saints 34-0 in Week 5.
That all noted, the Raiders coaching staff (comprised of ex-Patriots) and players (also with New England ties), aren’t keen on seeing Sunday’s matchup inside Allegiant Stadium as a cakewalk.
And that’s the main area of concern.
The Raiders speak highly of Belichick and their own struggles mean they have little room to talk boisterously.
“I know this from experience, Bill will have them ready to go. Bill Belichick, Coach (Bill) O’Brien, they’ll have them ready to go,” Graham said during his mid-week press conference when asked does it make it easier or harder to prep for the Patriots due to their struggles. “They’ve got really good players that we have to prepare for. Starting with the offensive line, they do a good job playing together, do a good job of moving people off the line of scrimmage. A lot of weapons at the tight end position that are tough to cover and they compete in the run game. The backs are big guys that are hard to tackle, and they’re live in the passing game.
“And then you get to the receivers and they all have certain skill sets that they do a good job at and it’s tough. It’s tough. And I know Bill will have them ready to go, Bill and the other Bill.”
The familiarity, foundationally is there, but coaches and players note they’ve been far removed from the Patriots system as O’Brien and Belichick have changes things, just like McDaniels and his coaching staff have done. It’s a year-to-year difference (allegedly) and Las Vegas expects nothing short of the best from New England — no matter what overall records, statistics, and the scoreboard the previous five weeks say. It’s the proper mentality to have.
Yet, it doesn’t stop the “you know each other well” questions leading up to the game. Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was asked such a question. And because of the familiarity, does it mean the Silver & Black need to do something surprising or unexpected to the Patriots?
“I think it’d be pretty hard to surprise Coach (Belichick), he’s been in this league for a while,” Garoppolo responded during his mid-week media session. “Obviously, one of the best ever do it. He’s seen just about everything. So, we’ll do what we do. I’m sure we’ll have a couple of wrinkles here and there. I’m sure they will too. But yeah, that’s kind of the chess match when you play against a former coach I’ve learned. It’s fun though, man. You’ve got to embrace it and make the best of it.”
With 81 total blitzes, according to Pro Football Reference, New England ranks second the league, behind only the Minnesota Vikings (113 blitzes). That has allowed the Patriots to rack up 12 sacks, 42 pressures and 19 hurries on opposing quarterbacks. Those numbers give Belichick’s defense the 20th overall ranking in sacks, 17th in pressures, and 10th in hurries. The Patriots are charted with 25 missed tackles, the 12th least of that category in the NFL.
New England is charged with giving up 131 total points, however, 28 of those have come on defensive scores by the opposition — three interceptions and one fumble return. Take those out of the equation and the Patriots have given up 103 to opposing offenses which would put them in them in the middle of the pack, defensively.
You can tell listening to McDaniels talk about Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, he’s still fond of the Alabama product. The Raiders head coach lauded the signal callers accuracy, touch, and anticipation noting Jones does all those things “at a very high level”. But looking at the team overall, McDaniels noted New England is battling what Las Vegas is too.
“They’ve battled the same bug we’ve battled honestly, with the turnovers and losing opportunities through change of possession,” McDaniels said. “So, I’m sure that’s something that they’re going to work hard at limiting and getting rid of, and it’s the same thing we’re talking about. But this is a guy who’s a very capable passer in every situation. He’s played big and big games. He’s battled against really good teams, made some high-level throws and hung in there. Very tough in the pocket, gets hit and gets right up and goes to the next play. So, a lot of respect for him, a lot of admiration for what he did when I was there. It’ll be a big challenge for us this week.”