by Inside the Redzone staff – Michael Taylor
Home Team: Oakland Raiders
Anytime the Patriots are on the schedule, it’s a grudge match. (Yes, I still hold a grudge from the 2002 tuck rule game, but I digress.) However you see Tom Brady’s “apparent” fumble, this week’s meeting is sure to feature quite a few points being scored.
The Patriots feature the league’s no.1 passing offense, with Brady leading the way with 1,327 passing yards in the first three games. Wes Welker leads the team in targets (42) and receiving yards (458). His 16 catch performance against the Buffalo Bills exemplifies the trust and chemistry he has with Brady. After all, he’s essentially the longest tenured Patriots receiver (Deion Branch spent several seasons in Seattle between stints with the Pats).
So let’s look at the obvious: Tom Brady and Wes Welker. Look for quite a few points between them. Don’t expect 20 targets like last week, but Welker is sure to get the ball, especially in second and long situations. One touchdown from Wes this weekend. Rob Gronkowski is also a good play with Aaron Hernandez still sidelined with a sprained MCL. We give fantasy football’s top tight end a score too. As for Chad Ochocinco, there is always hope against the league’s 28th ranked pass defense, but proceed with caution.
The Raiders’ run defense is fairly good, but everyone knows that the Patriots are a pass-first team. They run the ball merely to set up play action and keep the defense honest. Don’t expect much out of BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley or Danny Woodhead until the snow starts falling in New England. Still, the Raiders are 26th against the run thus far. We’re giving a score to BenJarvis, but not much on the yards in a committee set-up, projecting 40 yards.
As for the Raiders, their offense should have an easier time with the Patriots’ 32nd ranked defense (Yes, the Patriots are dead last defensively) than they had with the New York Jets. The Raiders had to rely on speed, misdirection, and a strong running game to wear down a really good defense. Remember linebacker Bart Scott grasping at air when trying to tackle Denarius Moore on the end-around TD?
With new turf in the Coliseum after the A’s finished their season, the Raiders’ game plan will be simple: let their big offensive line dictate tempo so that their running game will wear down the Patriots. Run-DMC leads the team in rushes (61), rushing yards (393), receptions (11) and touchdowns (3). He’s a great play against a soft defense. I wouldn’t worry about the reported groin injury. The Raiders’ game plan is to run McFadden straight ahead, or to outrun defenders to the edge for yardage. McFadden should have another multi-touchdown game. We’re shutting out Michael Bush for a score, if the Pats defensive unit do something well, it’s being stingy at the goal line.
As for receivers, it’s hard to say, since stand outs Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore have been more home run hitters than possession receivers. Derek Hagan has been a consistent number two receiver, but teams are really finding out how hard it is to cover Ford and Moore in open space. Think of it this way: Hagan is more likely to keep the chains moving, Moore is better deep threat, and Ford is a great special teams weapon. We like two touchdowns here as well. One for Denarius Moore and a close in score from tight end touchdown sleeper, Kevin Boss.