Patriots - Raiders: Game Plans & Matchups

News notes, match-ups, game plans and strategies for the Raiders (2-1) match-up vs the Patriots (2-1).

PATRIOTS

   -- 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 Randy Moss.

   -- 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.
    
INJURY IMPACT

   -- 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.
 
GAME PLAN


   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.

RAIDERS

 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 squad.
   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 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.

   GAME PLAN:
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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\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"    -- 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 Randy Moss.    -- 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.        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 squad.    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 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. 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.    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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