The Patriots got good pre-game news about two key starters on offense for Sunday's game against the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Top wideout Jakobi Meyers (concussion) and running back Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) are active for the Patriots for Sunday's contest in the desert. New England's game-day inactives are as follows: RB Damien Harris (thigh), CB Jack Jones (knee), CB Jalen Mills (groin), WR DeVante Parker (concussion), DT Sam Roberts, and S Joshuah Bledsoe.
Meyers, who missed Monday night's game in Arizona, suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter versus the Bills but cleared protocol to face off against the Raiders. As for Stevenson, the Pats top running back went down awkwardly in the win over the Cardinals. Luckily, the ankle injury wasn't a long-term issue, and he's officially good to go this week.
Although Mac Jones will take his two most dependable supporting cast members back with open arms, the door remains ajar for first-year offensive weapons Pierre Strong, Kevin Harris, Marcus Jones, and Tyquan Thornton to play a significant role in Sunday's game plan.
For starters, Stevenson could be on a pitch count to manage his ankle injury. The second-year running back tried to return last Monday night but had to shut it down after briefly making his way back on the field against the Cardinals. The rookies, Harris and Strong, will most likely split the duties to avoid overworking the banged-up Stevenson.
At wide receiver, Meyers figures as Mac's go-to target, especially on third down. Still, Marcus Jones and Thornton brought another dimension to the offense with their speed, and the Pats young Swiss Army knife should have a package on offense in every game moving forward.
The Patriots also ought to continue involving wideout Kendrick Bourne in the offense, giving unofficial play-caller Matt Patricia and their quarterback plenty of options to spread the ball to different playmakers.
Next, after placing OT Isaiah Wynn (foot) on injured reserve on Saturday ending his regular season, Yodny Cajuste (calf/back) is officially active. Journeyman right tackle Connor McDermott started at right tackle over the last two weeks. But the expectation is that the third-year tackle will start on Sunday.
Assuming Cajuste gets the nod, the Patriots will have a starting five that is their best on paper and needs to start rounding into form for the stretch run. The projected offensive line is LT Trent Brown, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Mike Ownenu, and RT Yodny Cajuste.
Moving over to the defense, rookie cornerback Jack Jones is officially inactive due to a knee injury. Jones exited the Cardinals game and didn't return. The Pats lose another layer of depth at corner with veteran Jalen Mills (groin) already ruled out in a game where they'll face a formidable passing attack.
After activating them from injured reserve this week, Vegas will have its full contingent of pass-catchers as slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller join Davante Adams. The trio has only played 43 offensive snaps together this season, as Vegas has yet to have the offensive personnel it envisioned heading into the season. The Pats will match up against the Raiders skill players with Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, and Marcus Jones as their top corners.
The Raiders present a tough matchup for a depleted secondary, but the good news is the Patriots defensive front is at full strength to help out the backend. Second-year DT Christian Barmore, who the team activated from injured reserve, is officially active for Sunday's game.
Barmore joins a Patriots pass rush that is third in sacks (45) and second in team pressure rate (26.4%). The 2021 second-round pick will fit right into New England's third-down pass-rush package on the interior, joining forces with Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Deatrich Wise, and company. In his first 23 NFL games, Barmore has logged 62 quarterback pressures.
With Barmore back, the Patriots defensive front needs to control the line of scrimmage against a banged-up Raiders offensive line. If the Pats can win in the trenches, that'll go a long way to shutting down Vegas's passing attack and the NFL's leading rusher, Josh Jacobs.
Although there's a reason they play the games, the Patriots playoff odds are much higher with a win over the Raiders. Looking at their remaining schedule, New England's final three opponents have a combined record of 28-13, while Vegas is on the outside looking in at 5-8.
The Patriots kick off in a "gotta-have-it" matchup against the Raiders at 4:05 pm ET on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.