Game Preview: Patriots @ Raiders

Week 4: Oakland Raiders (2-1) vs New England Patriots (2-1). Game scouting look at each team's camps, news, notes and injury updates.

New England Patriots (2-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-1)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 10/2/11
VENUE: Coliseum
SURFACE: Natural grass
WEATHER: Oakland, CA
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots

PREDICTION: Patriots 34-21

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Raiders have one of the league's most physical interior defensive lines led by Richard Seymour and Tommie Kelly, and they'll rotate the group to continue attacking backup center Dan Connolly in an effort to get in QB Tom Brady's face. Oakland is allowing 289.7 passing yards per game with a banged-up secondary, so allowing Brady time to survey his options would be a fatal approach. The Raiders will attempt to protect that defense by establishing their physical running game out of the chute. If RB Darren McFadden can dictate the tempo early on, it will set the table for QB Jason Campbell to attack New England's equally-shaky pass defense.

FAST FACTS: The only loss for each team has been to Buffalo. ... The Patriots have scored 30-plus points in 11 straight games.


   For once, all the attention isn't going toward quarterback Tom Brady -- even with his new haircut. This week, the focus is on defense, or, in the New England Patriots' case, lack thereof.

   Through three games, the Patriots are one of the NFL's worst defensive teams, and on Sunday they'll face another challenge against the Oakland Raiders, who lead the league in rushing.

   While it's impossible to pinpoint the exact problem, linebacker Jerod Mayo pointed to the team's inability to make stops on third down as a reason why opponents sustain so many long drives.

   "We have a lot of work to do," Mayo said, "and hopefully it happens this week."

   What's even more alarming is the number of big plays the Patriots have allowed, with a play longer than 20 yards falling under this category. The Bills torched them several times last weekend in an eventual 34-31 win for Buffalo, including Fred Jackson's long carry to the 1-yard line in the closing seconds that set up the winning field goal.

   "You just have to make plays on the ball," Mayo said. "Big plays have been killing us. That's one of the main priorities in practice this week -- stopping the big play and getting off the field."

   Things won't get any easier this week as the Patriots prepare to face star running back Darren McFadden, who is enjoying a breakout season through the Raiders' first three games.

   "McFadden's a great guy with the ball in his hands," Mayo said. "Tackling will be an issue and we'll be practicing that as well. Hopefully we can do good this week.

   "Sometimes, you can be disappointed in the things that we do, but at the same time you have to go back and watch the film and make corrections. It's a unit. We're a family on the defensive side of the ball. We know that and we're practicing hard."


   Richard Seymour is doing his best to not make things personal between himself and the New England Patriots in the media.

   "It isn't me against New England, it's the Raiders against New England," Seymour said.

   In his third year with the Raiders after spending 2000 through 2008 and earning three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, Seymour insists he has settled in to life in Oakland and couldn't be happier.

   But surely, Seymour must have circled the Patriots game on his calendar when the schedule came out.

   "I circle all of them. I look at all of them, you always try to go out and get a win," Seymour said. "We're just trying to string some wins together. We won our opener, lost the second game, won the third game, we want to develop some consistency."

   Raiders coach Hue Jackson is counting on a little extra something from Seymour, regardless of what the defensive tackle is telling the media.

   "I hope so," Jackson said. "I don't think he is going to approach this one any different physically, but emotionally to say he wouldn't I would be kidding myself.

   "That's where he played and had a lot of success, and he's going to be playing against some guys that he knows."

   It's worth noting that Seymour, while mentioning former teammates and friends, avoids talking about former coach Bill Belichick.

   Belichick has been fielding questions this week from media members wondering if perhaps trading Seymour for a first-round draft pick in 2011 -- the Patriots selected current right take Nate Solder at No. 17 -was such a good idea.

   The Patriots haven't had a championship level defense since he left.

   "They made a business decision," Seymour said. "I can't control what happens for them but it's worked well for me. I've enjoyed my teammates, my coach, playing in Oakland."

   Belichick conceded the Patriots were different without Seymour.

   "I think with top level-players, you never get the same guy," Belichick said. "You construct other parts of your team. Even if you find a guy to play that position, they play it a little bit differently ... you don't replace those kind of players. You add players in other areas, or players with different skills."


   --OL Logan Mankins returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's session due to illness, indicating he'll be ready to play Sunday in Oakland.
   --S Patrick Chung was also back at practice and is preparing to play Sunday in Oakland despite a thumb injury that ultimately required surgery.
   --DL Mike Wright missed practice again Thursday and will likely be inactive in Sunday's game. There's no timetable on his return.
   --DT Albert Haynesworth was not at practice Thursday, raising doubts about his availability this weekend.
   --OL Sebastian Vollmer also missed practice, though he is expected to play against the Raiders on Sunday.

   --FS Michael Huff, recovering from a concussion, did not participate in practice after practicing Wednesday.
   --CB Chris Johnson missed practice for the second straight day with a hamstring pull and is unlikely to play against New England.
   --DE Matt Shaughnessy missed practice for the second straight day with a shoulder injury. His absence would mean increased snaps for Jarvis Moss.
   --SS Mike Mitchell practiced for the second straight day and could see time against New England after being out eight weeks.
   --WR Jacoby Ford practiced for the second straight day and could return to his role as a wide receiver and kickoff return specialist.

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