Brady, Carr, Mexico City.

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New England Patriots (7-2) at Oakland Raiders (4-5)

Patriots: What rocky start? Oh, you’re talking about that rough patch when they were 2-2 and the ceiling was coming down, right? Now look at them. They’re exactly where we would expect them to be and that’s in first place in their division and if the playoffs began right now, they’d have that week off in the first round for the eighth straight season since 2011 which is remarkable. No team is better at scheming better than the New England Patriots and that statement comes after what I saw from them in Denver on Sunday night. The gameplan was simple, stay away from trying to attack a good secondary for the Broncos and attack the middle of the field with running backs and tight ends in open space and create mismatches with the linebackers and safeties and it was done perfectly. If you really think about it, they don’t necessarily have an identity if you really want to be technical about things. They will gameplan and gameplan as the game goes on and whatever the defense can’t stop, that’s what they will continue to lean on. Let’s look at their defense and how they’ve been as of late. When I watch them, they’ll give up a big play and that’ll be the only time it happens and a perfect example of that was when they played the Los Angeles Chargers. Melvin Gordon scored on an 80-yard touchdown and that was it. They made sure to contain him. As a defense, they’re playing smarter and staying within their lanes. They’ll look to win their sixth in a row against Oakland on Sunday.

Raiders: They got back to playing the type of football that helped them get back to the playoffs last season. Coming out the gate last week against the Dolphins, they finally decided to run Marshawn Lynch and build their offense around him. When he was able to get those small yards, it allowed Derek Carr to throw the ball and make plays. One question that was thrown my way quite a bit was what’s wrong with the Raiders and was Derek Carr to blame for all of this? He’s not to blame for all of their struggles, but he could definitely play better because there are weeks when he looks like he’s in the elite conversation of quarterbacks and then he’ll turn around and struggle so the inconsistency has definitely been there. I also stated that they weren’t using Beastmode as they should and he can have an impact on any offense, just ask Seattle and you see how much they miss him. When everything is clicking for the Raiders offense, they’re pretty difficult to shut down. Until they’re able to get things right on this side of the football, the defense will always be what holds them back. What’s interesting is they didn’t look bad against Miami but gave up a touchdown when it should’ve been garbage time. I find it funny that they struggle defensively and they have a defensive-minded head coach in Jack Del Rio. Outside of Khalil Mack, they struggle to stop the run, get off the field on third down and the secondary can’t match up with anyone especially with giving up big plays down the field. To get back to an even .500 record, they’ll need to beat the champs.

Patriots Player To Watch: Kyle Van Noy– This is a guy with excellent speed coming off the edge. He’s able to apply pressure, drop back in coverage and swat the ball away. He was a big force in taking away Denver’s running game and I see him trying to do the same with slowing down Marshawn and getting to Derek Carr.

Raiders Player To Watch: Obi Melifonwu– The biggest priority on the Raiders gameplan will be how they will try to limit Gronkowski from having a big game which is much easier said than done. I was high on Obi after seeing some game tape of him at the combine. He has the agility and mquickness to roam around in the backend and most importantly, he has the height to prevent Rob from making any type of leaping catch.

Final Analysis: This has the makings to be a trap game for the Patriots and they know that can’t take Oakland lightly because they’re definitely a much better team than the record shows. I see Brady and the offense attacking the Raiders secondary early and often with passes to Cooks, James White, Dion Lewis and if Hogan comes back from his injury, this could add the depth to a depleted receiving core. For Oakland, timing is everything. Play your own game, establish Lynch early on and utilize the tandem of Cooper and Crabtree because New England doesn’t have the power in the secondary to really limit receivers as we’ve seen in the past, look at what Sanders did to them on Sunday night.

Prediction: Patriots 31 Raiders 28