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The Teams: New England Patriots (8-5) At Oakland Raiders (3-10)
The Terms: Regular Season Week 15
The Place: McAfee Coliseum, Oakland, California
The Time: 4:15pm
The Channel: CBS
3 Burning Questions:
- How will Matt Cassel respond to the death of his father? Certainly it’s a tough time for Matt Cassel as he deals with the loss of his father but he seems to be the kind of person who can focus when needed. Nobody knows what’s going on inside his head except for him and you know the coaching staff would never let him play if they didn’t feel he was mentally there. It’s a must win for the Patriots this week and after dealing with the family issues he’s been back to practice and should be ready to go by game time. One note – it will be interesting to see how much national media attention this story gets and how it compares to when Brett Favre’s father passed away. Coincidentally, Favre was also playing the Raiders and he ended up passing for 399 and four touchdowns, nearly all of which came on patented throw-it-up-for-grabs heaves that all seemed to land into the hands of receivers. The media attention he received was so over the top it made me sick.
- Can the Patriots take advantage of a horrid Raiders passing attack? If there was ever a week where the Patriots secondary should come into a game with confidence it’s this one. The silver and black are dead last in the NFL in passing with just 137 yards a game – good for 18 yards less than the second worst total. Led by former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell, the Raiders can never seem to get a rhythm going and have been hurt by Russell turnovers and offensive line woes. Russell has just seven touchdowns with six interceptions this season and though he possesses freakish athletic ability he’s been unable to unleash it thanks to inexperience and a lack of playmakers in the passing game. The Pats secondary should be able to cover Ronald Curry and Javon Walker with little trouble and allow some more blitz packages to put the pressure on Russell.
- Any chance of looking ahead to next week? The Patriots cannot afford to overlook a team they should easily beat on paper. With a showdown with the Arizona Cardinals next week the Patriots can take a big step towards the playoffs with a win today and some help in other places. Bill Belichick and his veteran team should be able to focus on the task at hand and play with fire in what will be a hostile atmosphere. Now, that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t be scoreboard watching. After defeating the Jets last week, Patriots fans have to cheer hard for the 49ers to help us again by beating the Dolphins, while the Jets have a test of their own in a match up with the Buffalo Bills.
Last week I thought the Patriots would come out and show their might against a subpar Seattle Seahawks team and that obviously didn’t happen. It’s another mismatch on paper this week but because of the unpredictability of the defense I’ll have to reign in my prediction. I think Cassel will be playing with more passion than he’s ever shown given the family situation and the offense will want to do everything they can to help him through the tough win by getting him the win. This has the feel for a Randy Moss breakout game considering he’s returning to Oakland where he spent two less-than-average seasons with the Raiders. He seems to excel when he has a point to prove and he’ll be out to show Raiders fans what they are missing. Junior Seau and Roosevelt Colvin will be relied on for a glut of plays and a week of practice can only help them. The Pats have struggled against athletic quarterbacks this year (*ahem* Seneca Wallace) so Russell may be able to make some plays, but there are just too many veteran players on the Patriots who know the importance of taking care of business as January approaches.
Patriots 34, Raiders 17
Tags: Bill Belichick, JaMarcus Russell, Javon Walker, Junior Seau, Matt Cassel, Patriots, Randy Moss, Ronald Curry, Roosevelt Colvin, Wes Welker