The New England Patriots will travel across the country to take on the Raiders in Oakland this Sunday. Both teams have shown signs of being good enough to play into January. The Patriots no huddle, spread passing attack has been tough to stop. But so too has Oakland’s physical ground game. This is a game of contrasting styles and one that should be fun to watch.
The Patriots opened as a 6 point road favorite. That was steadily bought down to 4 points until the end of the week when some buy back on New England pushed it back up to 5 or 5 ½ points, which is where most books are currently listing the game. The two teams come into the game with 2-1 records. Oddly enough, the one similarity between these teams is that they both suffered gigantic collapses in Buffalo, losing to the upstart Bills.
Although the Patriots are coming off a surprising loss and the Raiders a surprising win, consider laying the points and backing the road team in this one. I like fading a team after an emotional win and backing a team coming off an unexpectedly poor performance, which is the scenario here. All week both teams had to hear about how good Oakland has become and how the Patriots might not be as good as everyone thought. That should be enough to swell Oakland’s collective head and light a fire under Tom Brady and company.
The Raiders played a great game against the Jets last week. They were more physical than one of the NFL’s most physical teams. Darren McFadden had a tremendous game and currently leads the NFL in rushing yards. Jason Campbell hasn’t been asked to do too much, which is perfect for Campbell. Importantly, he hasn’t made many costly mistakes. And the defensive line for the Silver and Black has turned into one of the meanest, toughest units in the NFL. There are a lot of things to like about Oakland.
But there’s a lot to not like about Oakland, too. Over the past two seasons, they’re 3-8 straight up against teams outside the pitiful AFC West. They traditionally commit more penalties than any other team in the NFL. And as they showed in Buffalo, their secondary is actually pretty average. Their best defense against the pass is a strong rush.
That’s what I see being the problem for Oakland in this game. With the way that Brady and the Patriots administer their offense, it puts a disproportionate amount of pressure on the secondary. The defensive line just doesn’t have much time to put pressure on the quarterback. It’s a great system for keeping Brady from taking a lot of hits, and it allows one of the game’s brightest quarterbacks to make quick reads, which he does very well.
Against the Jets, Oakland was able to stifle the Jets surprisingly ineffective running game and force Mark Sanchez to win the game. That’s a great way to beat the Jets. If a team runs the ball well, eliminates turnovers, and makes Sanchez win the game, the Jets are in a world of trouble. But this week is completely different. The Raiders have to face one of the game’s best quarterbacks of all-time in his prime. Sure, he had an off-week last week. But what are the chances he has two in a row?
Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain, the second year player out of Alabama, might have added some fuel to the Patriots fire as well. Earlier in the week McClain called the Patriots a finesse team, insinuating they weren’t very tough. That’s probably not the right thing to say about the best team in the NFL over the past decade.
The line has bounced around a bit, but it’s creeping back up to the opening number. If you’re able to lay less than 7 points, this is a decent play. But like always, the sharps at Maddux Sports have the guaranteed winners on their NFL football picks page. Good luck!