Take the over in this one. There could be a flurry of points scored in Sunday’s Patriots-Raiders matchup at O.co Coliseum.
The Patriots rank No. 1 in the NFL offensively, with quarterback Tom Brady throwing for more yards in the first three games of a season than anyone in the history of the league (1,327). Across the line from him will be Oakland’s 28th-ranked pass defense, tasked with keeping the likes of Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco and Rob Gronkowski under wraps.
But there’s a ying to the Patriots’ yang.
New England is dead last defensively, which means the Raiders’ explosive offense may be able to match Brady touchdown-for-touchdown. Darren McFadden leads the league in rushing and Jason Campbell has been solid at quarterback, getting the ball into the hands of playmakers like rookie Denarius Moore. Plus, the Raiders' offensive line has been dominating at times.
For Raiders head coach Hue Jackson, Sunday’s matchup against one of the NFL’s best teams and best coaches in Bill Belichick gives Oakland a chance to prove its 2-1 record is legit and it should be considered a team on the rise.
“He’s a tremendous coach and we all know that and he has a very good football team,” Jackson said of Belichick at a news conference Thursday. “But we feel like we have a pretty good staff, too, and we have a very good football team. So we’re looking forward to it.”
Oddsmakers have the Patriots as 4½-point favorites (and the over-under points total at 55, highest in the NFL this week), but NFL pundits are torn which way to go on this one.
The established Patriots coming off a late loss to Buffalo? Or a physical, run-first Raiders team that beat up on the Jets last week?
Richard Florio of Pro Football Talk picks the Raiders, saying, “Oakland has Richard Seymour and an offense that the Patriots may not be able to handle.”
Peter King of Sports Illustrated picks the Patriots, pointing out that, “Bill Belichick is not a big fan of losing two in a row, and because they’re putting up 540 yards per game.”
On the injury front, it appears Jacoby Ford, out the past two games, may be back on the field catching passes and returning kicks for the Raiders. But free safety Michael Huff – who’ll be needed against Brady and Co. – is a concern. He suffered a concussion last week against the Jets and was held out of practice Thursday.
Sunday’s game will be played before a second consecutive sold-out O.co Coliseum, the first time the Raiders have had back-to-back sellouts since 2008.
“It’s tremendous,” Jackson said Thursday. “It means the fans are beginning to truly like and understand what we’re doing here. …
“Now we need to go out and play Raider football the way we know we can play and give them something to keep screaming about.”
That should include plenty of touchdowns – for both teams.