The New England Patriots host the Oakland Raiders and look to make their record 2-1. While the Raiders are the big underdogs, the Patriots haven't put together a complete game this season. This is the perfect opportunity for the team to put it all together.
Here's how the Patriots can beat the Raiders:
1) Defensive Trajectory. The entire defense put together a fantastic game after a bad first drive against the Vikings. Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower broke out, while Devin McCourty and Darrelle Revis stood out as well. There's just too much talent on this defense not to play well. These four main players need to put together another strong performance, while Jamie Collins, Dominique Easley, and whoever is playing corner opposite of Revis need to put up a positive performance.
2) Stop Darren McFadden. It could be argued that Marcel Reece is the Raider's version of the Dolphins' Charles Clay, the player that the Patriots keyed in on for week 1. However, the Raiders grossly underutilize him on the field. The other player on the offense who can provide a spark is running back McFadden, who is greatly inconsistent. Last week he saw 14 touches for 68 yards and a touchdown, after just five touches for 21 yards in week 1. McFadden is their lead back and should be used as their workhorse to take pressure off of rookie quarterback Derek Carr.
3) Pressure Carr. The Patriots need to treat Carr like a veteran, instead of trying to force him to beat them. Carr utilizes his checkdowns well, so if the Patriots sit back in their coverage, Carr won't be baited into challenging the secondary. The defensive line will need to apply pressure to Carr if they want the rookie to make mistakes. Jones, Easley, Hightower, and Rob Ninkovich should have a big game dialed up.
4) Revis on James Jones. This is the perfect game for Revis to shadow the opposing top receiver. Beyond Jones, the rest of the Raiders receivers are good, but they don't command as much focus. Jones leads the team in targets with 17, collecting 12 for 130 yards and two touchdowns. The next target is Denarius Moore with 13 targets- he's only reeled in five. The Raiders use tight end Mychal Rivera as a checkdown target and he should be covered by the strong safety.
5) Offensive Output. While the defense needs to string together another positive game, the offense is still looking for its first good game of the year. The offensive line is entering its third week as a unit, so hopefully they'll look better in protection. The receivers have been unable to generate consistent pressure, so you can be sure that Tom Brady will try and spread the ball around.
The Raiders defense has a few shining points; linebacker Sio Moore is great, but is out with an injury. Safety Charles Woodson still plays with tremendous fire, but is a couple weeks from his 38th birthday. Beyond that, rookie Khalil Mack shows promise as a linebacker, but has plenty of room to grow. He reminds of young Ninkovich- he sets the edge very well and can get into the backfield from time to time; every play will be a positive. He just doesn't have a play that jumps off the screen- but keep in mind he's only played two games in the NFL.
This is the game the Patriots need to show they can play a complete and complementary football game.