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Week 4 Patriots vs Raiders: 5 Things to Watch

The Patriots look to avoid a two game losing streak. Here's how they win:

1. Slow Darren McFadden - After a slow start to his career, running back and captain Darren McFadden has emerged as one of the best running backs in football. He's fast, explosive, powerful, elusive, shifty, and a complete threat as a running back. The Patriots defense cannot stop McFadden- they can only hope to contain him. Brandon Spikes needs to have his game face on to stop this force. Should the Patriots hold McFadden to under 100 total yards on the day, consider it a win. If they hold him to under 5 yards/carry, consider it a win. McFadden is their biggest and most consistent weapon. Slow him, and the Patriots will control the tempo of the game.

2. Protect the Center - While the Patriots managed to keep the forces of Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus out of the pocket, they were unable to push them away. The interior of the Patriots must improve to not only keep Tom Brady clean in the pocket, but also open up passing and rushing lanes. Oakland features DTs Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly who are both nightmares in the pass rush. The Patriots struggled against the Detroit Lions' DTs in the preseason and that's a close representation of what they'll be facing in Oakland. Both Seymour and Kelly can stop the run and can generate pressure at any time. In order to sustain the offense, these two players must be kept at bay.

3. Generate Pressure - Any way possible. If Albert Haynesworth can play, have him crash the pocket. Send Mark Anderson after QB Jason Campbell. Have Jerod Mayo, Dane Fletcher, and Rob Ninkovich all break into the backfield at some point during the game. Last week, according to Pro Football Focus, the Patriots generated 3 pressures and 1 QB Hit all game. The defense had 6 sacks, 12 QB Hits, and 17 pressures against the Dolphins in Week 1. That's how much the pass rush has disappeared. While Mike Wright, Myron Pryor, and Albert Haynesworth are the pressure-generating defensive tackles, they are all injured (Pryor is done for the season and Wright should be there for his own safety) and no one is around to create their own pressure. Therefore, Bill Belichick must compensate for the weaknesses in the defense by creating schemes that will ruin Jason Campbell's game.

4. Spread the Ball - Last week, the Patriots threw to Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. That's it. No one else was able to get open. Whether that's the fault of the players, the injuries, or the system, the fact remains that the Patriots must spread the ball to win the game. At first glance, the Raiders appear to feature a weak secondary, but the Bills were missing a top cornerback and they were able to stop the other receivers. This week, more than just Gronkowski and Welker have to show up.

5. Protect the Ball - The Patriots must win the turnover battle. Since Tom Brady has returned from his injury, the team is 3-8 when they lose the turnover battle. They are 1-6 in their past seven games, with the sole victory coming last year against the Ravens in overtime, which was a result of the defense and Zoltan Mesko winning the game. Even going -1 on the day ruins the Patriots' chances of winning. Therefore, Brady has to protect the football in order to win. Simple enough, but more important than one might think. No errant throws. No forces. Brady needs to be on target all day in order to pull out a win.


Fun Facts:

Wes Welker has more first down receptions than any other player in the league has regular receptions.

Patriots (2-1), Texans (2-1), Colts (0-3), Broncos (1-2), and 49ers (2-1) are the only teams remaining with a 20 yard run by any player on the roster. The Titans' punter has more 20 yard rushes than these teams. Chad Henne has more 20 yard rushes. Please give the ball to Stevan Ridley this week?

Mark Ingram reminds me of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Tom Brady is 25/27 (92.6%) in the first quarter for 335 yards and 3 TDs. That's absurd.

Brady is 19/35 (54.3%) in the fourth quarter for 348 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs. That's not as good (this includes Welker's 99 yard touchdown).

Last week was only the third time Deion Branch was held catchless in any NFL game, since his rookie season with the Patriots. The other two were with the Seahawks in 2007.


But seriously- Brady comes out blazing and untouchable. Can the Patriots get a 3 score lead and then hand the ball to Ridley to see what he can do?