Pro Football Picks Preview: Patriots hoping to bounce back at Oakland

New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders
Sunday, 10/2/11, 4:15 PM EST, TV:  CBS
Opening Point Spread:  New England -4.5
Current Betting Line:  New England -5
Opening Total:  52
Current Total:  55
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Raiders vs. Patriots NFL Preview
Oakland RB Darren McFadden leads the NFL in rushing and will try to run over the Patriots on Sunday.

The New England Patriots proved they are far from unbeatable last week and will try to get back on track on Sunday when they visit the Oakland Raiders.  The Patriots (2-1) suffered a disappointing 34-31 loss at Buffalo and will be playing on the road for the second consecutive week.

New England (-5, O/U 55) had looked like they were heading for a repeat of their perfect 16-0 season in 2007 through the first 10 quarters, leading Buffalo 21-10 at halftime last week following a pair of impressive wins to open the year.  But the Bills rallied back for the second straight game to pull off the upset as 7-point home underdogs.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw four interceptions, including one that was returned 27 yards for a touchdown by Drayton Florence to give Buffalo a 31-24 lead.  That was the turning point of the game though Brady still finished with 387 passing yards and four touchdowns.

The problem offensively for New England has been a lack of balance with the running game stuck in neutral.  Starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried the ball 10 times for just 18 yards and was spelled by rookie Stevan Ridley, who looked much better with 42 yards on six attempts.  There has been speculation that Ridley will continue to get more looks in an effort to get opponents to respect the team’s ground game.

Defensively, the Patriots remain the NFL’s worst against the pass, surrendering an average of 377 yards per game through the air.  As good as Brady has been, his teammates have given back almost all of the yards he has produced to their opponents.  Brady’s passing total of 1,327 yards is the most in league history for any QB over a three-game span, and he will be returning to the Bay Area, where he grew up and also lost the last time he played there.

The Raiders (2-1) lost the last home meeting 49-26 in 2008, but it was Matt Cassel who was under center for New England after Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury.  The Patriots had lost in their previous trip to Oakland 27-20 in 2002 and have won the last two overall by a combined 33 points.

This year’s Raiders have proven to be a dangerous team so far, led by the NFL’s leading rusher in RB Darren McFadden (393 yards).  They are coming off an impressive 34-24 home win over the New York Jets, New England’s chief AFC East rivals.  McFadden rushed for a season-high 171 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets.

Oakland has covered the spread as an underdog in all three of its games, with the total going OVER in each of them.  However, this week’s total is more than 12 points higher than any of the previous games, and the Raiders are bigger underdogs than they have been to date.

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