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Game Matchups: Patriots should keep Raiders run game in check


WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN


While Stevan Ridley's 101-yard rushing performance against the Vikings was encouraging, the Patriots still have a lot to prove in this department. Through two games, the team is averaging 119.5 yards per game on the ground, although that number would undoubtedly be higher if the Patriots didn't have to abandon the run during the second half of their loss to the Dolphins. The Raiders haven't been stellar against the run this year, however. The Jets averaged 6.0 yards per rushing attempt (34 rushes for 212 yards) during their victory over the Raiders, and the Texans picked up 188 yards on 46 carries in last Sunday's 30-14 triumph. Those numbers put Oakland at the bottom of the league having allowed 400 yards on the ground for an average of 5 yards per carry. Expect the Patriots to take another step forward in the running game. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN


While Stevan Ridley's 101-yard rushing performance against the Vikings was encouraging, the Patriots still have a lot to prove in this department. Through two games, the team is averaging 119.5 yards per game on the ground, although that number would undoubtedly be higher if the Patriots didn't have to abandon the run during the second half of their loss to the Dolphins. The Raiders haven't been stellar against the run this year, however. The Jets averaged 6.0 yards per rushing attempt (34 rushes for 212 yards) during their victory over the Raiders, and the Texans picked up 188 yards on 46 carries in last Sunday's 30-14 triumph. Those numbers put Oakland at the bottom of the league having allowed 400 yards on the ground for an average of 5 yards per carry. Expect the Patriots to take another step forward in the running game. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE RAIDERS RUN


The Raiders signed free agent Maurice Jones-Drew in the offseason with the intent of making him their featured back, but Jones-Drew was limited to 11 yards on nine carries in a Week 1 loss to the Jets and was inactive for last Sunday's loss to the Texans because of a hand injury. It's always a bad sign when your quarterback leads the team in rushing, and that was the case with Derek Carr last week. Carr ran for a team-high 58 yards against the Texans. If Jones-Drew can't go, expect Darren McFadden to get most of the carries. McFadden's career has been plagued by injuries, and he's been anything but exceptional this season. He's gained 52 yards on 16 carries through two games. The Patriots should have no trouble keeping this group in check. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS


Geno Smith completed 23-of-28 pass attempts for 221 yards and a touchdown to help the Jets beat the Raiders 19-14 in Week 1, so Tom Brady should have a productive day if given time to throw. After allowing four sacks in a season-opening loss to the Dolphins, the Patriots offensive line performed much better during last week's victory over Minnesota, when the Vikings got to Brady just once. Still, Brady is having trouble finding targets other than Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and must finds ways to get others involved. While the Raiders secondary is statistically solid with veterans Charles Woodson, Tyvon Branch, Carlos Rogers and Tarrell Brown, this may be the week to improve in that area. The key may be how well New England's offensive line holds up against Oakland's blitzing linebackers ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE RAIDERS PASS


The Raiders traded a sixth-round draft choice to Houston in exchange for quarterback Matt Schaub in the offseason, but Derek Carr, a rookie out of Fresno State, beat him out for the starting job in the preseason. A Bill Belichick game plan vs. a rookie quarterback favors the Patriots. Making matters worse for Carr is the fact that the Raiders don't have a true No. 1 receiver. James Jones, who fumbled twice on one play against Houston last Sunday, and Rod Streater are the best they have to offer. New England was exceptional defending the pass against Minnesota. The Patriots came up with four interceptions and sacked Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel six times. It figures to be a long day for Carr as the Patriots look to add to their takeaway total against the rookie. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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SPECIAL TEAMS


It's a close call here. Oakland placekicker Sebastian Janikowski is aging, but still has one of the strongest legs in the league. Janikowski had a subpar season a year ago, when he missed nine of his 30 field goal attempts, but he still collected at least 100 points for the fourth consecutive season. Oakland's Marquette King finished the 2013 season No. 1 among NFL punters in gross punting average (48.9). New England counters with one of the best punt returners in the game in Edelman, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski is as reliable as they come. New England's special teams bounced back from a rough opener and turned in a strong effort against Minnesota including a game-changing blocked field goal return for a touchdown by Chandler Jones. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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OTHER FACTORS


Have to figure the Patriots will have an emotional edge, coming off the win in Minnesota and playing their first home game of the season. Add to that the fact that the Raiders have a cross-country flight, and New England's edge seems even larger. While the Patriots will be riding the momentum generated from the victory over the Vikings, the Raiders are still seeking their first victory of the season and haven't finished with a record above .500 since 2002. Oakland's losses came against the Jets (19-14) and the Texans (30-14), and neither was especially competitive despite the final scores. Penalties have hurt the Patriots, who have been flagged 24 times for 263 yards in their first two games, and that needs to be cleaned up, but the Raiders seem like they're stuck in rebuilding mode. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE RAIDERS RUN


The Raiders signed free agent Maurice Jones-Drew in the offseason with the intent of making him their featured back, but Jones-Drew was limited to 11 yards on nine carries in a Week 1 loss to the Jets and was inactive for last Sunday's loss to the Texans because of a hand injury. It's always a bad sign when your quarterback leads the team in rushing, and that was the case with Derek Carr last week. Carr ran for a team-high 58 yards against the Texans. If Jones-Drew can't go, expect Darren McFadden to get most of the carries. McFadden's career has been plagued by injuries, and he's been anything but exceptional this season. He's gained 52 yards on 16 carries through two games. The Patriots should have no trouble keeping this group in check. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS


Geno Smith completed 23-of-28 pass attempts for 221 yards and a touchdown to help the Jets beat the Raiders 19-14 in Week 1, so Tom Brady should have a productive day if given time to throw. After allowing four sacks in a season-opening loss to the Dolphins, the Patriots offensive line performed much better during last week's victory over Minnesota, when the Vikings got to Brady just once. Still, Brady is having trouble finding targets other than Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and must finds ways to get others involved. While the Raiders secondary is statistically solid with veterans Charles Woodson, Tyvon Branch, Carlos Rogers and Tarrell Brown, this may be the week to improve in that area. The key may be how well New England's offensive line holds up against Oakland's blitzing linebackers ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

20140919-patriots-pass.png


WHEN THE RAIDERS PASS


The Raiders traded a sixth-round draft choice to Houston in exchange for quarterback Matt Schaub in the offseason, but Derek Carr, a rookie out of Fresno State, beat him out for the starting job in the preseason. A Bill Belichick game plan vs. a rookie quarterback favors the Patriots. Making matters worse for Carr is the fact that the Raiders don't have a true No. 1 receiver. James Jones, who fumbled twice on one play against Houston last Sunday, and Rod Streater are the best they have to offer. New England was exceptional defending the pass against Minnesota. The Patriots came up with four interceptions and sacked Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel six times. It figures to be a long day for Carr as the Patriots look to add to their takeaway total against the rookie. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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SPECIAL TEAMS


It's a close call here. Oakland placekicker Sebastian Janikowski is aging, but still has one of the strongest legs in the league. Janikowski had a subpar season a year ago, when he missed nine of his 30 field goal attempts, but he still collected at least 100 points for the fourth consecutive season. Oakland's Marquette King finished the 2013 season No. 1 among NFL punters in gross punting average (48.9). New England counters with one of the best punt returners in the game in Edelman, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski is as reliable as they come. New England's special teams bounced back from a rough opener and turned in a strong effort against Minnesota including a game-changing blocked field goal return for a touchdown by Chandler Jones. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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OTHER FACTORS


Have to figure the Patriots will have an emotional edge, coming off the win in Minnesota and playing their first home game of the season. Add to that the fact that the Raiders have a cross-country flight, and New England's edge seems even larger. While the Patriots will be riding the momentum generated from the victory over the Vikings, the Raiders are still seeking their first victory of the season and haven't finished with a record above .500 since 2002. Oakland's losses came against the Jets (19-14) and the Texans (30-14), and neither was especially competitive despite the final scores. Penalties have hurt the Patriots, who have been flagged 24 times for 263 yards in their first two games, and that needs to be cleaned up, but the Raiders seem like they're stuck in rebuilding mode. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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