-- With a touchdown Sunday, TE Rob Gronkowski
would set a new franchise record for most consecutive games with a
touchdown catch. The record is five, shared by four players, including
-- S Patrick Chung is back in practice with a cast
on his hand after reportedly undergoing surgery to repair an injured
thumb. There's a good chance he'll be ready to play Sunday in Oakland.
-- OL Nate Solder will likely slide into a backup
role again this weekend as the Patriots attempt to contain Oakland's
pass rush. Solder has filled in nicely at times for Sebastian Vollmer,
but won't get too much playing time this weekend.
-- TE Rob Gronkowski might receive extra attention
this weekend since he is the only legitimate tight end on the roster.
The release of his brother, Dan Gronkowski, will put more pressure on
him Sunday in Oakland.
-- DL Albert Haynesworth returned to practice
Wednesday, which is a good sign for the Patriots heading into Sunday's
game at Oakland. Haynesworth should be available.
-- LG Logan Mankins was not at practice Wednesday,
the first time he's missed practice with the Patriots as a member of
the active roster. No word yet on whether this is football-related.
-- TE Aaron Hernandez was missing from practice
Wednesday. He has a sprained MCL and will likely miss Sunday's game.
-- RT Sebastian Vollmer was not on the practice
field Wednesday, though he's expected to be available Sunday in Oakland.
-- DL Mike Wright did not practice Wednesday as he
continues to battle concussion symptoms. This has been a problem in the
past, and he will likely miss Sunday's game.
The front seven will play a huge role in
determining the outcome of this game, not just because they need to
rush the passer, but because they need to find a way to shut down
Oakland's prolific rushing attack.
The Patriots have had enough problems stopping
opposing quarterbacks, but they've yet to face a running game this
good. Led by Darren McFadden, the Raiders lead the league in rushing
and could pose problems Sunday in Oakland.
As always, the best approach is to be equally
efficient running the ball, which was a problem last week for the
Patriots. The general sense is that teams have figured out this rushing
attack, but the emergence of rookie Stevan Ridley could throw a monkey
wrench into the Raiders' game plan.
New England's best bet is to showcase Ridley and
hope he does enough to make life easier for Tom Brady, who threw four
interceptions in last week's loss to Buffalo. The Patriots are on the
verge of becoming one-dimensional, but a good rushing attack solves
that problem, and it would keep McFadden and the Raiders off the field.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Patriots LB Jerod Mayo vs. Raiders RB Darren
McFadden. This is strength vs. strength. The Raiders are the best in
the league at running the ball and the Patriots have one of the best
run-stuffing linebackers in the league. The winner of this matchup will
determine who has the upper hand.
Raiders S Tyvon Branch vs. Patriots TE Rob
Gronkowski. Tom Brady's best weapon is the bulky tight end Gronkowski.
The Raiders haven't defended well all year and are somewhat soft in the
secondary. This is a matchup the Patriots can exploit and they should
look to do so early and often.
Patriots WR Deion Branch vs. Raiders CB Stanford
Routt. Branch had zero catches last weekend, so expect Brady to look
for him early on in this game. Routt can cover, but might have a hard
time matching up with Branch, who is an expert route-runner. This is a
matchup worth watching.
With the possibility of Marcel Reece being out with an ankle
injury, tight end Richard Gordon should see more time as a fullback
unless the Raiders decide to promote Manase Tonga from the practice
Neither man presents the kind of downfield
receiving threat as Reece, a converted receiver.
--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
--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
--WR Jacoby Ford practiced for the second straight
day and could return to his role as a wide receiver and kickoff return
Given that both teams have played Buffalo within the last two weeks,
there is lots of relevant The Raiders best hope is to batter Brady with
their rotating front four much the same way the New York Giants did in
their Super Bowl win over the Patriots. The Giants defensive line coach
that day was Mike Waufle, currently the Raiders line coach. It comes
down to beating the man in front moreso than trickery. The Raiders need
to control the ball on the ground with Darren McFadden, get some scores
and not allow Brady to dictate the pace.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Raiders C Samson Satele vs. Patriots NT Vince Wilfork -- Whatever
problems the Patriots are having on defense haven't come against the
run, where opponents are averaging 91.7 yards per game through three
games -- No. 11 in the NFL. A lot of that has to do with the way
Wilfork, the player the Patriots opted to keep and eventually lock up
long term as opposed to Richard Seymour, ties up the middle. Satele has
been perhaps the Raiders best offensive lineman through three games. He
re-signed and asserted himself in the middle, with second-round pick
Stefan Wisniewski moving to left guard. Satele does some of his best
work in space, as opposed to using brute power.
Patriots WR Wes Welker vs. Raiders CB Stanford
Routt and others -- Welker will be slotted and isolated so Routt won't
be the only player to guard him, as much as the Raiders would like it
that way. However, Routt has played in the slot before and Oakland
could be creative enough to get him in Welker much of the time. Whether
it's Routt or anyone else in the secondary, the key for the Raiders
isn't to prevent catches -- it's to prevent yards after the catch. Ten
catches for 80 yards is acceptable. Ten catches for 120 or more means
trouble. Interceptions are nice, but sure tackling by Routt and others
will be huge.
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Patriots - Raiders: Game Plans & Matchups
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