With their road opener in Seattle in the books, the New England Patriots will return home on Sunday to take on the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium. The Raiders are entering the game on a hot streak after having won both of their games since officially moving to Las Vegas earlier this year. With that said, let’s take a closer look at New England’s upcoming opponent.
Record: 2-0 (t-1st place AFC West)
Points scored: 4th (34.0/game)
Points against: 20th (27.0/game)
Head coach: Jon Gruden
Coordinators: Greg Olson (OC), Paul Guenther (DC), Rich Bisaccia (ST)
Las Vegas’ coaching staff has plenty of experience at the NFL level and built a team that looked competitive in both of its games so far this year. While Jon Gruden’s and Greg Olson’s well-balanced ball-control offense has stood out, the defense of coordinator Paul Gunther also had its moments while playing a solid complementary game so far this year.
Season so far
Week 1 at Carolina Panthers: W 34-30
Week 2 vs New Orleans Saints: W 34-24
Opening their first season in Las Vegas with back-to-back games against the NFC South, the Raiders have been able to jump to a 2-0 start for the first time since Jon Gruden arrived as head coach in 2018. While the game in Carolina was a relatively close one that saw the Panthers come back in the fourth quarter before Las Vegas scored the game-winning touchdown with under five minutes left, the win against the Saints was an impressive one considering the quality of New Orleans’ roster.
Including playoffs, the Patriots and Raiders have met 35 times so far:
- Patriots wins: 19 (2 playoff wins)
- Raiders wins: 15 (1 playoff win)
- Ties: 1
While the two teams have met three times in the playoffs so far, one game stands out among them: the 2001 divisional round matchup at the old Foxboro Stadium. Now known as the “Tuck Rule Game,” the contest saw the Patriots beat the Raiders 16-13 in snowy conditions while benefitting from a controversial, yet correctly applied, rule that overturned a Tom Brady fumble late in the game and allowed the team to tie the contest before winning it in overtime.
All in all, the Patriots are 11-5-1 at home against the Raiders, while head coach Bill Belichick is 6-1.
The last meeting between the two clubs, took place in Mexico City as part of the NFL’s International Series. New England won 33-8. The last game at Gillette Stadium was won 16-7 by the Patriots in Week 3 of the 2014 season.
Projected starting lineups
QB Derek Carr; RB Josh Jacobs; WR Henry Ruggs III*, WR Bryan Edwards, WR Hunter Renfrow; TE Darren Waller; LT Kolton Miller, LG Richie Incognito, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Trent Brown
Led by seventh-year quarterback Derek Carr, the Raiders offense has had two impressive games to start its season. While Carr naturally played a big role in this, veteran tight end Darren Waller’s performance did as well: he is leading the team with 18 catches for 148 yards so far this season and has been targeted 24 times so far by Carr — out of just 68 total pass attempts. One big personnel question heading into this week’s game is whether or not right tackle and ex-Patriot Trent Brown will be good to go after missing Monday night’s game against the Saints due to a calf injury.
DE Clelin Ferrell, DT Johnathan Hankins, DT Maliek Collins, DE Maxx Crosby; LB Nicholas Morrow, LB Cory Littleton; CB Damon Arnette*, CB Trayvon Mullen, CB Lamarcus Joyner, S Erik Harris, S Johnathan Abram
Las Vegas has plenty of experience on the defensive side of the ball, and some impressive developmental upside with first-round draft picks Clelin Ferrell and Damon Arnette. The leader of the unit, however, is first-year Raider Cory Littleton: the team’s primary off-the-ball linebacker was signed in free agency this year after opening his career with the Los Angeles Rams. He is no stranger when it comes to going up against the Patriots after having met them in the Super Bowl two years ago.
K Daniel Carlson, P A.J. Cole, LS Trent Sieg; KR RB Jalen Richard, PR Hunter Renfrow
The Raiders’ special teams unit has seen some solid play this season, with Daniel Carlson in particular standing out: the third-year man has made all four of his field goal attempts — including two from beyond 50 yards — and is a perfect 8-for-8 on extra points. The return game also cannot be underestimated, especially as far as punt returner Hunter Renfrow and his 14-yard average are concerned.
Three things to watch
1. The Raiders on a short week: After having played the Saints on Monday night, the Raiders will need a quick turnaround going up against the Patriots. To make matters worse, they also will need to fly across the country for the second time in a three-week span. While traveling on a short weeks is nothing new, the lack of a regular offseason and training camp preparation in combination with those circumstances could still have an impact on Las Vegas. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the team performs in regards to conditioning and general preparedness.
2. Can the Patriots’ defense bounce back? New England’s defense is one of the best in the game, despite surrendering 35 points against the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday. That said, the unit will need to bounce back against a talented opponent: the Raiders have averaged 34 points over their first two games, as noted above, and have plenty of talent on this side of the ball. The Patriots’ main focus, of course, will have to be Darren Waller — but players such as Josh Jacobs or Henry Ruggs also cannot be underestimated.
3. Will the offense continue its momentum? It did come up one yard short on Sunday night, but the Patriots’ offense made a step in the right direction versus the Seahawks at least as far as the passing game is concerned. The question now becomes if the unit can build on this success while simultaneously getting the running game back on track again. The talent is there, but the consistency in both areas needs to improve. A Raiders defense that is very much average to below average in every major statistical category offers a good opportunity to do that.