Go ahead and call it “homecoming” because the NFL schedule-makers gave the Pats the ultimate cupcake opponent for their 2014 Gillette Stadium opener.
The 0-2 Raiders are in town this Sunday (1 p.m., CBS), and have been outscored by opponents 49-28 so far this season. That number is even more alarming when you consider that Oakland’s first two opponents this season, the Jets and Texans, went a combined 10-22 last season.
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Sit back, relax
One would expect Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr to have bruises from head-to-toe, two losses in to Oakland’s 2014 season. But Carr has surprisingly been sacked just twice so far this season, both coming in the Raiders’ 19-14 loss to the Jets in Week 1. Either Carr is doing a great job of getting rid of the ball quickly or opposing defenses are just sitting back and letting their secondaries do the work. Carr was picked off twice by the Texans last week and one can bet that Bill Belichick and Houston coach/former Pats assistant Bill O’Brien will be talking on the phone this week regarding Carr’s early career tendencies.
Bad news for the former Fresno State star. The play of the New England secondary was perhaps the most impressive portion of the Pats’ blowout win over the Vikings last week.
Back to the old school
During Tom Brady’s MVP years of 2007 and 2010, critics called for more balance to the Patriots offense. Brady, at his peak, would bail the Pats out of nearly every problematic situation with his pin-point passing. Meanwhile, the run game was something close to non-existent. The Pats ran the ball 20 times and passed it 56 times against the Dolphins and lost. They ran the ball 37 times and passed it just 21 times against the Vikings and won.
But in today’s NFL, a contender needs to be able to win a shootout. The Patriots desperately need to see more from the likes of Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins, Danny Amendola and Tim Wright. It also wouldn’t hurt to get Rob Gronkowski involved more. This would be a great week to test out the air attack.
The Patriots defense took a giant step from Week 1 to Week 2. Against the Raiders, they can certainly creep toward elite status. The Pats have given up just 577 yards so far this season, the fourth least in the league. They have given up 20.0 points per game, which is 14th. Keeping the Raiders in the single digits should be a goal.
After shaky Week 1 performances, Vince Wilfork and Dont’a Hightower looked much better against the Vikings. Wilfork was back to his run stuffing ways, holding Minnesota’s entire rushing attack to just 54 yards on 19 carries. Hightower was all over the field, finishing the game with two sacks, eight tackles, two hurries and one pass defended.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS