3 Keys to Victory for Patriots in Week 3 vs. Raiders
Now 1-1 in the win-loss column, the New England Patriots look to put their road loss behind them and win their second game at home. This week they will take on the 2-0 Las Vegas Raiders, who have opened some eyes the past two weeks.
This Raiders' team is not one to be taken lightly, as they most recently took down the New Orleans Saints. This will be another great test here for the Patriots. So, let's jump right into how New England can snap Las Vegas' undefeated record this weekend.
Let Cam Cook
We all heard the hashtag last week in the Seattle Seahawks' game, "#LetRussCook." This week for the Patriots, the hashtag is "#LetCamCook." He has demonstrated he can lead both a potent rushing and passing attack on any given week. Luckily, Newton enters an intriguing, yet potentially extremely favorable matchup against a Raiders' defense that has really struggled out the gate.
It will be key for Newton and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to scheme up ways in which to slice and dice through this rather strange and weak Las Vegas defense. The Raiders play almost every zone coverage in the book and have an uber-aggressive defensive front that can either blow things up or be a big play waiting to happen. Unfortunately for Las Vegas, the combination of Newton and McDaniels doesn't bode well for their defensive approach.
With a mastermind like McDaniels calling passing concepts to find openings in zone coverages, Newton should continue to find open receivers this week and pick up where he left off last week in Seattle. Along with that, if there is one quarterback that you don't want to be super aggressive on the ground against, it is Newton with his ability to quickly read the defense and either take it himself or give the ball to one of his backs.
Expect Newton and McDaniels to work together to really take advantage of this struggling Raiders' defense and hit them in all their weakest spots. Newton is going to be slinging the ball around the yard again this week, and if you have him in any of your fantasy leagues, start him in each and every one.
Make Carr Throw To the Sideline
The key on defense this week is likely going to be playing some Cover One Robber to take away the middle of the field, where Derek Carr really likes to hit his receivers and his main target, Darren Waller.
Carr is a fine quarterback, however, he certainly does not scare a defense and secondary like New England's. Carr is one of the more conservative quarterbacks in the league, taking little risks. If New England can focus on taking away the middle of the field with players like Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips, Carr will have no choice but to work with what he has with one-on-one matchups on the outside with Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson.
It has long been a philosophy of Bill Belichick's on offense to attack the middle of the field, simply because he knows how hard it is to consistently win games by throwing outside the numbers. Belichick also knows he has the personnel to take that middle of the field away from Carr.
With that middle of the field gone, I personally give Carr little to no chance of consistently beating Gilmore and Jackson on the outside. Especially when his top five skill position players and half his offensive line either were were limited and/or non-participants in practice this week. The whole group is banged up and players like Henry Ruggs, Trent Brown and Richie Incognito have already been ruled out. With his whole starting receiving core being listed with ailments this week, beating Gilmore and Jackson consistently on the sideline, in man coverage, is such a remarkably tall task for Derek Carr.
Contain the Edge
One big thing that the Patriots failed to do last week and will need to do again this week is contain the edge. They are facing up against a really good second-year runningback in Josh Jacobs. All Las Vegas does with Jacobs is run outside zone, as it's one of the biggest, if not the biggest, staple of their offense.
New England really struggled to contain the edge last week, which allowed for easy runs by Chris Carson and extended plays by Russell Wilson. The biggest offender last week was Shilique Calhoun, who was man-handled by offensive tackles on a few plays to the outside. Derek Rivers struggled with it a little bit too. Seattle consistently ran that way, as Chase Winovich and John Simon, two good edge-setters, were frequently avoided by the Seahawks.
With an inability to set the edge, this makes Ja'Whuan Bentley's job really hard. With him and Brandon Copeland being virtually the only two "true" linebackers we consistently see out there, they have a lot asked of them in the run game. Without a hard edge set and good gap integrity by the Patriots' front seven, Bentley is going to struggle and Jacobs is going to get into the second, third level of the defense almost every play. Which, with a guy who can break tackles like Jacobs, the last possibility you want if you are New England is your secondary consistently having to bring him down, opposed to bigger front seven pieces.
Setting the edge is going to be really important to minimizing the ground attack from the Raiders. Which with the outside zone not working as planned and the middle of the field taken away, the Las Vegas offense stalls Sunday in New England.
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