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Week 3 Patriots vs Raiders: Keys to the game

Related: Game Plan: Week 3 vs. Las Vegas Raiders

New England Patriots Vs. Seattle Seahawks at Centurylink Field Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Last Sunday’s 35-30 loss in Seattle had New England Patriots fans feeling optimistic: regardless of the outcome, the Patriots showed that they can compete toe-to-toe with one of the league’s best teams as well as open some eyes in terms of their passing attack. However, in the words of Cam Newton, “We’re 1-1. I wouldn’t be overly jolly of our record or where we stand right now.”

With the 2-0 Las Vegas Raiders coming to town and a trip to Kansas City on tap for next week, this game isn’t necessarily a “must-win” but it is certainly important for the Patriots to continue to build off of last week and keep improving with the reigning Super Bowl champs up next.

Don’t let Darren Waller beat you

The Raiders’ number one tight end has certainly caught the eye of everyone around the league after a breakout year last season. He has looked to have gotten even better through the first two weeks this year, racking up 18 catches on 24 targets for 150 yards and a touchdown. It is clear that Las Vegas’ passing attack rolls through Waller as wideouts for the Raiders this season have combined to catch just 15 balls out of quarterback Derek Carr’s 68 attempts.

It will be interesting to see how Bill Belichick’s defense puts a stop to Waller and forces Carr to look elsewhere with the football. In Week 1, Joejuan Williams did a great job on Miami’s Mike Gesicki but Williams didn’t see much action last week as Kyle Dugger took the majority of the snaps versus tight ends and generally played well. Will the Patriots go with the promising rookie again, or give the assignment to the more experienced Williams?

Keep Josh Jacobs in check

It’s no secret the Raiders rely not just on Waller to move the football but running back Josh Jacobs as well. The 2019 first-rounder ran for 1,150 yards as a rookie due to his violent style and ability to make people miss at the second level. Jacobs went for 93 yards and three scores in Week 1 and certainly makes Carr’s job a lot easier when he’s running the ball like he is capable of.

The Patriots’ run defense has been serviceable albeit unspectacular through the first two weeks of the season, but it hasn’t faced an elusive back like Jacobs yet. The unit will certainly have its hands full on Sunday afternoon. Forcing Carr to spread the ball around to other guys starts with limiting Josh Jacobs breaking off big plays.

Use Cam Newton both as a runner and as a passer

We saw Newton throw the ball just 19 times in Week 1 — a performance that left several people wondering if New England would ever have a true passing attack with him at the helm. In Week 2, however, the former league MVP continued to silence his doubters by going 30 for 44 with 397 yards passing and a touchdown to fullback Jakob Johnson. Newton developed a strong relationship with Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd, who all racked up career highs in receiving yards along the way.

With defenses now having to respect both Newton’s ability to run and his ability to pass, it opens up a whole new element to the Patriots’ offense and makes it that much harder to defend. A healthy mix of both from Newton factored in with the Raiders’ bottom-third defense is a recipe for success for a New England offense that should have no problem picking up where it left off on Sunday night in Seattle.

Prediction: Patriots 28 - Raiders 13

Did you know?

  • Cam Newton needs just one rushing yard to pass Randall Cunningham for second most all time by a quarterback.
  • Cam Newton has four rushing touchdowns this season — 12 is the single season record by a Patriots quarterback (Steve Grogan, 1976).
  • Since 2003, the Patriots are 47-9 following a loss.
  • The last time Jon Gruden coached a Raiders team in Foxboro, a dynasty was born (Snow Bowl, 2001)
  • If activated today, Isaiah Zuber will become the 36th undrafted rookie free agent signed by the Patriots to appear in a game since 2004.