Coming off a second-straight loss that dropped them to 1-4 on the 2023 season, the Patriots now take to the road in Week 6 to face a Las Vegas Raiders team that is littered with talent and familiar faces. New England badly needs a win, but Josh McDaniels and his team are standing in the way, having already beaten the Patriots last season in a game that came down to a final unfortunate play that handed the win to the Raiders. How can the Pats exorcise those demons and get their second win of the season? The PU crew weighs in!
How can the Patriots offset the likely absences of Demario Douglas and Juju Smith-Schuster and get their offense in gear against the Raiders?
It may sound flippant but, it's not like we're talking about a ton of production from either, regardless of the reasons. There's not much to offset. If Thornton can play and Boutte is activated for game day, the bodies will be there. What's more important is the performance of the offensive line and Mac. -Fred Kirsch
Regardless of the personnel available the Patriots need to make more of an effort to get the running game going. Adding Tyquan Thornton to the mix should help, but getting production out of Rhamondre Stevenson is at the top of the list. -Paul Perillo
Tyquan Thornton? Bueller? Eventually, when Pop Douglas returns from this concussion, the Patriots need to let the young guys play at wide receiver, which includes Thornton and rookie Kayshon Boutte. Smith-Schuster and DeVante Parker have given them absolutely nothing. Thornton's vertical speed is an added element, even if his game has shortcomings in other areas. Boutte has to be better than JuJu on the quick-hitters/RPO screens to pick up YAC, and Douglas has been arguably their most dynamic receiver. Kendrick Bourne is the only one who deserves to keep their playing time the same. Let the kids play. What do you have to lose at this point? -Evan Lazar
The Patriots offense can offset the likely absences of Douglas and Smith-Schuster by getting the running game going. By alleviating some of the pressure of the air raid, that should help the void of not having those two slot receivers. -Tamara Brown
Even with Demario Douglas and Juju potentially out, I'm still waiting for that breakout game from either Devante Parker, Kendrick Bourne or Mike Gesicki. But at the very least, a good game from Mac Jones' favorite target Hunter Henry would be a good start in finally bringing this offense to life. Of course that all starts with keeping the pocket clean. -Alexandra Francisco
I think we're all hoping that Tyquan Thornton can give the offense an injection of needed speed but it's still unclear if he'll play. Either way Kayshon Boutte deserves another chance and I'm kind of itching to see if Jaelen Reagor will ever get a chance off the practice squad. Would love to see some new faces in the mix. -Mike Dussault
Which Raiders player is the bigger obstacle to a Patriots victory, Maxx Crosby or Davante Adams? How would you deal with both of them?
Crosby for sure. He's a problem and can ruin plays. He usually comes from the Patriots right side and right tackle has been the most unsettled. Perhaps veteran Riley Reiff, with help, will be able to handle him enough to give Mac time to operate. With Adams, pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo will limit his damage but make no mistake, he'll get his catches.-FK
Given the state of the Patriots pass protection, I'd say containing Crosby is most important. I'd expect Bill Belichick to devote extra bodies to him, using tight ends and perhaps even a back to help keep him from ruining the game. As for Adams, he needs to be bracketed throughout the game and I'd expect to see plenty of bodies involved with that. -PP
Crosby. He is relentless on film and, unlike some other star pass-rushers, is also a game-wrecker against the run. I'm not sure what else you do against him other than send waves of blockers in his way, try to get him to over pursue with misdirection, and hope for the best. The one advantage the Patriots have is that the Raiders don't have another rusher on their front that scares you, which makes this matchup different from Dallas with Parsons. You can devote all the extra attention to Crosby. As for Adams, I think you trust J.C. Jackson with safety help on him. -EL
The biggest obstacle to a Patriots victory is going to be Maxx Crosby. Mac Jones has become paralyzed playing talent such as Micah Parsons and Maxx Crosby and with the offensive line unable to provide appropriate protection it could be a long night. When it comes to containing both DeVante Adams and Maxx Crosby it's going to take a unique gameplan. Adams will likely be defending Jon Jones or J.C. Jackson with help over the top, I could also see Jalen Mills being converted to cornerback for a few packages to help with some of the void of missing Jack Jones and Marcus Jones. In regards to defending Maxx Crosby, the Patriots are going to have to get healthy at offensive line or lean on Pharaoh Brown to play full back a lot to protect Mac Jones and keep him out of harms way and from making more opportunities for the opponent to create takeaways. -TB
As terrifying as Crosby is, I believe the rest of Vegas' defensive line leaves a little to be desired. For that reason, I am going with Devante Adams. The Patriots secondary has felt the absence of Matthew Judon more than I anticipated and that all goes back to how much time opposing quarterbacks have to throw the ball now. Jimmy G already gets the ball out pretty quick, so I fear one of the NFL's best receivers could have a monster game. -AF
Gotta be Crosby and I'd guess the Patriots will have a plan to deal with him on every snap, though he moves around a lot and will still make his share of plays. They just can't let him force game-changing mistakes, something that has been haunting them this season. -MD
What are your keys for Mac Jones this week and how can he do his part to get the offense on track?
Settle down, mentally. It's not easy based on experience but trust the plan and his line. There's no other solution. He's not going to run himself out of trouble and he's doesn't have the weapons to consistently beat coverage. Stay with the call, stay on time and if nothing's there, get rid of the ball and live to fight another down. That said, if things break down and there's a few positive yards to gain, take them. Be smart.-FK
Jones needs to avoid the turnovers that have plagued the offense all season. He needs to get his fundamentals in check and keep his eyes downfield and away from the pass rush. Protecting the football is the top priority. -PP
Mac needs to play poised in the pocket. His eyes are immediately on the rush, and his feet look unsettled in the pocket, even when he's kept clean. They need him to stand in there and make some strong throws. Jones is seeing ghosts right now and doesn't trust his O-Line, which is understandable, but he needs to control what he can control. Stand confidently in the pocket, get your feet set, go through your reads, and make some throws. There will be plays to be made out there. -EL
Mac Jones has to take better care of the football. The Patriots cannot have another first quarter series ending in a pick-6. His decision making and footwork has to be better in order for the offense to make strides this week. It all starts with him and if he's not mentally ready to go into this matchup in Vegas, the hangover will continue. Mac Jones cannot try to play hero ball or panic when pressure arises, instead he needs to look for a checkdown, take the sack or throw the ball away. There have been too many instances over the past two weeks where he's made careless rookie mistakes that he shouldn't be making in year three in the league. -TB
I hope Mac just stays calm and collected out there. As desperate as him and this team are for a win, he can't play like that. Making good decisions is key. -AF
I'm looking for some baby steps like getting a good start, putting together a drive on the first possession and getting a touchdown and then letting the game play out from there. They've been behind on the scoreboard so quickly, they're due for a good start. -MD
The Patriots defense is struggling to produce takeaways and their pass rush took a hit without Matthew Judon last week. Name a player or two on defense you'd like to see step up and produce those kinds of big plays.
Christian Barmore: The pressure doesn't have to result in a sack. Pushing the pocket and disrupting Garoppolo's timing is enough. Josh Uche: Make your speed something the Raiders have to deal with and something Garoppolo will have to worry about. -FK
I feel like Kyle Dugger has been quiet for the most part this season, partly due to the fact that he's been deeper in the secondary than normal. I'd like to see him get closer to the line of scrimmage and perhaps come up with a takeaway to help the cause. Jonathan Jones would be another candidate now that he's back from injury. -PP
Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche, easily. Speaking to him this week, Dugger felt like he's had opportunities to make plays on the ball but didn't, while Uche needs to show he can be a top pass-rusher without Judon getting the attention on the other side. Both players are also in contract year, so even if it doesn't yield wins for the Patriots, it's big for them to put good things on tape heading into free agency next offseason. These guys were supposed to be impact players for this defense who aren't making big plays at the moment. -EL
The combination of Keion White, Jahlani Tavai and Josh Uche need to step up and make plays. If the defense can create more pressure up front it will help the secondary come up with takeaways. Hopefully the addition of J.C. Jackson will provide a boost in the Patriots defense too and rub off on other players to play more aggressive and have a nose for the ball. -TB
Kyle Dugger was a turnover machine last season. I'd love to see a big game from him and personally feel like he was robbed of an interception last week. -AF
I'm with Fred, I think this is a week they'd love to get a quick push from Christian Barmore. A player like him can be key against a quick passer like Jimmy G. I'd love to see him getting into the backfield consistently. This can't be a sit back and two gap kind of game. Barmore and maybe Keion White have to get after it and make plays happen. -MD
Which former Patriots player or coach on the Raiders will have the biggest impact on this game?
Jakobi Meyers. He's where he should be in terms of receiver depth. Adams is the guy teams scheme for and Meyers benefits. -FK
Josh McDaniels understands how Bill Belichick likes to operate and he is the one responsible for figuring out how to game plan against him. He needs to be able to come up with a way to move the ball knowing how Belichick will try to attack his offense. -PP
Sadly, Jakobi Meyers. I was wrong about the Patriots swapping Meyers for Smith-Schuster, and I should've known better. Meyers was a team player on and off the field who you knew worked in this offense with your QB. The Pats were hoping for something more explosive by transitioning to JuJu. Still, they should've been looking to add a big-play receiver alongside Meyers's steadying presence rather than replacing Jakobi—another misstep by this front office. -EL
Former Patriot, Jakobi Meyers will have a huge impact on this game. His ability to create plays for Jimmy G and create separation will not go unnoticed in this game. With the Patriots focus being on taking away the team's best player, DeVante Adams, that opens the door for Meyers to takeover on offense. -TB
Josh McDaniels was able to get out of Mac Jones in his rookie season. Unfortunately, that also gave Josh a close look at his weaknesses. -AF
I think it has to be Josh. He knows this team and has beaten the Patriots both times he's faced them though both games came down to the end/overtime. Mac didn't do much against his defense last year and I think he'll have a similar plan to attack him. -MD
Bonus Question: Best casino game in Las Vegas?
I'm a sucker for roulette but of course I don't partake due to rules! -FK
That one's easy – blackjack – all day every day. -PP
If you aren't playing blackjack, you are doing it wrong. Besides poker, which is a whole other level, blackjack is the only answer. -EL
I've never gambled 😊 -TB
Blackjack!!!! Only game worth playing. -AF
Slots! They're cheap and you can get free drinks until it's time to move over to the tables to lose the rest of your money. -MD