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Patriots vs. Raiders preview: Get to know New England’s Week 15 opponent

New England will meet old friend Josh McDaniels and his team on Sunday.

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

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While it lost its primetime status as part of the NFL’s flexible scheduling, the New England Patriots’ game against the Las Vegas Raiders will still be one of the most interesting games of Week 15. Obviously, the connection between Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels and his former team will be a dominant storyline, but there is a lot more to this contest than just that.

The Patriots’ perspective has been well-established: a win would be crucial given the daunting stretch they will face over the final three weeks of the season. For McDaniels’ team, meanwhile, a lot more will be at stake than simply positioning itself well for the stretch run and the race for a finite number of wild card playoff spots.

If Las Vegas loses on Sunday, it will officially be eliminated from postseason contention. At 5-9, the Raiders would end the season with a losing record and out of the tournament.

Obviously, the team finds itself in this position because it has played some uneven football this season and not been able to hold onto double-digit half-time leads. The numbers put up by Las Vegas in 2022 are a reflection of those issues:

  • Record: 5-8 (3rd AFC West)
  • Offense: 23.7 points/game (11th), 361.9 yards/game (8th), 0.036 EPA/play (12th)
  • Defense: 24.1 points/game (24th), 365.0 yards/game (24th), 0.058 EPA/play (26th)
  • Scoring differential: -5 (16th)
  • Turnover differential: -3 (t-24th)

As can be seen, McDaniels’ team has been relatively solid on the offensive side of the ball. The unit is above-average in the three categories presented here, and one of the most efficient scoring groups in football: with 45 percent of its possessions ending in points it is currently the No. 3 offense in football in that category behind Kansas City (48.5%) and Buffalo (46.0%).

So, why is Las Vegas only 5-8 and on the cusp of playoff elimination? Because its defense has struggled, especially when it comes to defending the pass and generating turnovers: the Raiders have taken the football away only 10 times, the second-worst number in the league.

Despite all that, however, the team is still listed as a 1.5-point home favorite versus New England (via DraftKings Sportsbook).

With that said, let’s now jump right to the Raiders’ active roster to get to know each of the players currently with the Patriots’ Week 15 opponent.

(Note: The 53-man roster is up-to-date as of Friday7 a.m. ET; *denotes projected starter)

Quarterbacks

  • Derek Carr* (4)
  • Jarrett Stidham (3)

Even with the Raiders now under a new regime, Derek Carr remains in place as the team’s starting quarterback. While the team as a whole has had its struggles this season, the 31-year-old is in the middle of another mostly solid campaign.

While his completion percentage (62.0%), yards per game (239.8) and yards per attempt (7.2) are down and his interception percentage (2.3%) gone up when compared to 2021, he is throwing touchdowns at a higher rate (4.6%) and is posting a superior EPA per play (0.125).

In total, Carr has gone 269-for-434 in his first season running McDaniels’ offense for 3,117 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also has been sacked 21 times.

Behind him on the roster is ex-Patriot Jarrett Stidham. The former fourth-round draft pick joined the team via trade over the summer.

Offensive backfield

  • Josh Jacobs* (28)
  • Ameer Abdullah (22 | KR)
  • Brandon Bolden (34 | ST)
  • Zamir White (35)
  • Jakob Johnson (45 | FB)
  • Brittain Brown (38)

The Raiders have a deep running back corps, but one player clearly stands out: Josh Jacobs, whose 1,402 rushing yards are the most in the NFL so far this season. He also has found the end zone 11 times on his 269 carries and on top of it all is a viable threat in the passing game: Jacobs has caught the football 44 times for an additional 346 yards.

His 1,748 yards from scrimmage are the high-water mark in the NFL and more than 200 more than second-placed Justin Jefferson (1,524) has through Week 14. Jacobs is the motor powering the Raiders offense, and as dangerous a running back as any the Patriots will face all year.

As for the others, they are mostly rotational or special teams options — including another ex-Patriot, Brandon Bolden. To putter things into perspective: the have carried the ball a combined 27 times this year.

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

Wide receivers

  • Davante Adams* (17)
  • Mack Hollins* (10)
  • Keelan Cole* (84 | PR)
  • D.J. Turner (19)

The Raiders are not as significant a one-man show at wide receiver as they are at running back, but Davante Adams is still far and beyond the most dangerous player for the team. He has caught 82 passes on 142 targets this season, gaining 1,247 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns. No other player is close to this level of production.

That does not mean the other wideouts on the roster are not worth mentioning as well. Mack Hollins (47-588-3) is a solid No. 2 on the outside, with Keelan Cole (7-86) also seeing the occasional opportunity.

Of course, the Raiders might be getting one of their starter-level wideouts back soon: Hunter Renfrow (21-192) has been designated to return from injured reserve. The 26-year-old, who was forced to sit out the previous five games with an oblique injury, would replace Cole in the starting lineup.

Tight ends

  • Foster Moreau* (87)
  • Jesper Horsted (80)
  • Jacob Hollister (88)

The Raiders are in a similar situation at tight end as they are at wide receiver. Darren Waller, who has been out since suffering a hamstring injury in Week 5, has also been designated to return from IR. He is the team’s nominal TE1 and as such has caught 16 passes for 175 yards and a score this year.

For comparison, his replacement — Foster Moreau — has caught 25 passes for 316 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 11 games. If Waller is indeed activated, he would take over as the top option at the position with Moreau returning to a rotational role.

Offensive tackles

  • Kolton Miller* (74 | LT)
  • Jermaine Eluemunor* (72 | RT)
  • Thayer Munford (77)
  • Jackson Barton (78)

With former first-round draft pick Alex Leatherwood shipped to Chicago after just one season, the Raiders have turned to another ex-Patriot to man the right tackle spot: Jermaine Eluemunor is now lining up on the opposite side of Kolton Miller.

He has been mostly solid, giving up two sacks and 19 additional quarterback pressures, per Pro Football Focus. Miller, the team’s long-time starter on the left side, has surrendered three takedowns and 21 other disruptions.

What has been an issue for Eluemunor, though, is penalties: he has been flagged a team-high seven times this season.

Interior offensive line

  • Dylan Parham* (66 | LG)
  • Andre James* (68 | C)
  • Alex Bars* (64 | RG)
  • Hroniss Grasu (65)
  • Netane Muti (54)

Whereas the Raiders’ offensive tackle play has been mostly solid, the interior of the line has had some questions performance-wise. The guard spots manned by third-round rookie Dylan Parham and former practice squad member Alex Bars in particular have had their ups and downs — especially in pass protection: the pair has given up a combined 66 quarterback pressures.

With New England’s pass rush one of the most potent in the league, it would not be a surprise to see the team attack this weakness. Matthew Judon and Josh Uche coming around on stunts could cause problems for Las Vegas.

Interior defensive line

  • Bilal Nichols* (91)
  • Andrew Billings* (97)
  • Jerry Tillery (90)
  • Neil Farrell Jr. (92)
  • Matthew Butler (94)
  • Kyle Peko (93)

Free agency acquisition Bilal Nichols and career journeyman Andrew Billings are the top two for the Raiders along the interior defensive line, and they have been... OK, mostly. Billings in particular has played surprisingly solid football for the team.

Behind the two starter-level options, the Raiders have some mix of experience and youth. Jerry Tillery was a first-round draft pick just four years ago, while Neil Farrell Jr. was selected in Round 4 out of LSU this year; Matthew Butler is a fifth-round rookie from Tennessee, with Kyle Peko moving on and off the practice squad and active roster this year.

Las Vegas Raiders v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

Defensive edge

  • Maxx Crosby* (98)
  • Chandler Jones* (55)
  • Clelin Ferrell (99)
  • Tashawn Bower (96)
  • Malcolm Koonce (51 | ST)

The strength of the Raiders defense is its defensive edge — a unit featuring two former Patriots in Chandler Jones and Tashawn Bower. While Bower is mostly a backup option, Jones is a starter and has registered 4.5 sacks as well as one forced fumble and two recoveries.

The most productive edge on Las Vegas’ roster, however, is Maxx Crosby. The 25-year-old, who signed a four-year, $99 million contract extension with the organization this offseason, is leading the team with 11.5 sacks and a combined 59 quarterback pressures. He also has forced a team-high three fumbles.

Also part of the group are former fourth-overall draft pick Clelin Ferrell and core special teamer Malcolm Koonce.

Off-the-ball linebackers

  • Denzel Perryman* (52)
  • Luke Masterson* (59 | ST)
  • Darien Butler (58 | ST)
  • Curtis Bolton (36 | ST)

The Raiders’ off-ball linebacker position has yielded inconsistent results this season. Denzel Perryman has been serviceable as the group’s leader — registering 70 tackles, a sack and one of just four Las Vegas interceptions — but the depth behind him is an issue.

Undrafted rookie Luke Masterson and Darien Butler have earned playing time along Perryman on defense, but have both been up and down. Curtis Bolton, meanwhile, has been used exclusively in the kicking game. The group as a whole has therefore not been able to adequately replace former starter Divine Deablo since he was placed on injured reserve in November.

Cornerbacks

  • Rock Ya-Sin* (26)
  • Nate Hobbs* (39)
  • Sam Webb* (27)
  • Amik Robertson (21)
  • Tyler Hall (37)
  • Sidney Jones (31)

Another position group that has had its problems this season, the Raiders cornerback depth chart is led by Rock Ya-Sin. The former Indianapolis second-round draft pick was acquired via trade this offseason for edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, but has had his ups and downs serving as Las Vegas’ CB1.

The other starting roles are filled by Nate Hobbs, who missed time with a hand injury, and undrafted rookie Sam Webb. Neither of the two has stood out so far this year, and the depth behind them is not overly inspiring either.

Amik Robertson replaced Hobbs during his absence and has caught the group’s lone interception, but he has not proven himself a starter-level player. Likewise, journeymen Tyler Hall and Sidney Jones are also not the solution; both are depth players at this point.

Safeties

  • Duron Harmon* (30)
  • Tre’von Moehrig* (25)
  • Roderic Teamer (33 | ST)
  • Isaiah Pola-Mao (20 | ST)
  • Matthias Farley (41 | ST)

The Raiders’ safety group features another familiar face: former Patriot Duron Harmon, who won three Super Bowls in his seven seasons in New England, is a starter alongside second-year man Tre’von Moehrig.

The 31-year-old has played some solid football, and is currently the team leader with two interceptions — including one returned 73 yards for a touchdown. Additionally, Harmon has registered two forced fumbles. Moehrig has not posted the same impressive numbers, but he too is a valuable member of Las Vegas’ safety group.

Specialists

  • Daniel Carlson (2 | K)
  • A.J. Cole III (6 | P)
  • Trent Sieg (47 | LS)

The Raiders’ special teams operation is one of the most steady in football. Daniel Carlson and Trent Sieg have been with the organization since 2018, with A.J. Cole joining them the following year. Now in their fourth season together, the three are playing good football again: Carlson is 28-for-31 on field goals (90.3%) and 26-for-27 (96.3%) on point-after tries, while Cole and the punt team are averaging a net of 43.9 yards per kick.

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