The Patriots meet the Raiders this Sunday in Oakland, both teams entering the matchup at two-and-one. The game looks poised to be a shootout: the Patriots’ flying pass attack will look to outshine Oakland’s own NFL-leading running game. Here are five things to watch in this Week Four showdown:
32nd TO NONE
After three games, the Patriots defense is ranked dead last—32nd out of 32. They’ve allowed close to 470 yards per game, and now face what is probably the most potent running attack in the NFL. Raiders’ running back Darren McFadden leads all NFL rushers with 393 yards. The Raiders passing game is more suspect, led by quarterback Jason Campbell, but more attention to run stopping and the return of Oakland downfield threat Jacoby Ford could spell another long night for the Patriots secondary.
BRADY BOUNCE BACK
Tom Brady returns to the field tonight after throwing four interceptions last Sunday—a career high for the Patriots quarterback. The good news: the Raiders allowed Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to throw for 369 yards in Oakland last week, which is the most that Sanchez has thrown in his young career. Despite the picks, Brady set NFL records last week for most yardage in a three-game stretch, and he’s on pace to shatter both the touchdown and yardage records for a season.
Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour will be a familiar face to fans back in Foxborough. He won three Super Bowl rings with the team, and was a huge part of the now defunct Patriots front line that opposition offenses feared. After a shocking and still somewhat murky trade to Oakland in 2009, Seymour will be looking to make a big impact against his old squad.
The verdict on off-season acquisition Chad Ochocinco is still out. He’s been largely ineffective in the first three weeks of the season, with only five receptions for 87 yards. To that point, what New England fans will remember most from his inaugural three matches is his inexplicable drop of a pin-point Brady bomb last week against Buffalo. The criticisms (that he isn’t focused, isn’t working hard enough, doesn’t know the playbook) are still written in wet cement, but this game is the quarter-mark of the regular season. Ochocinco must step up or move aside.
EMERGENCE OF STEVAN RIDLEY
The Patriots are a pass-first offense, but as anyone who has seen a Chicago Bears game this season can attest, a varied attack is essential in the NFL. Last week’s leading rusher for New England was rookie Stevan Ridley, who ran for 44 yards on seven carries. The yardage total may not be breathtaking, but a yards-per-carry average just shy of six-point-three is worth noting. Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien says that they’re looking to slowly get him more involved, and if the Pats go up big, look for Ridley’s quickness through the holes.