The good news for the Raiders Thursday was that three key players were back at practice.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, cornerback Carlos Rogers and defensive end Justin Tuck, who had all been nursing injuries, will be ready to play the Patriots in New England on Sunday.
The bad news, however, is that middle linebacker Nick Roach, who has yet to play this season, and outside linebacker Sio Moore – who has played very well – are in danger of missing the game.
That’s not good news for a defense that has given up 400 rushing yards in back-to-back losses to the Jets and Texans and now must face a 1-1 Patriots team that likes to run the football.
Oddsmakers have made the Raiders 14-point underdogs, certainly understandable for a team that has so far had no consistent running game, a porous defense and has lost 14 straight trips to the Eastern time zone.
Oakland head coach Dennis Allen – who some speculate is already in trouble after his 0-2 start – told reporters this week that the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady are a formidable foe.
He noted that the Pats are 11-1 in openers at Gillette Stadium and that Brady is 49-3 in his last 52 starts at home.
“This is a good football team,” said Allen. “They’re well coached, they’re good on offense, they’re good on defense, they’re very sound in what they do special teams-wise and they’ve been that way for a long, long time. So we understand that it’s a great challenge.”
In order to beat the Patriots Sunday, Allen’s team is going to have to do all the things it has yet to do: stop the run, put pressure on the quarterback and put together long scoring drives early in the game. The Raiders have consistently played from behind so far.
Can they do all those things on Sunday? Based on the first two games, it seems unlikely. But the Patriots’ Brady and coach Bill Belichick have been saying all the right things this week, saying they respect the Raiders.
“They’re off to a start they obviously didn’t want to get off to, but they’ve got a lot of really good players, especially on defense,” Brady told reporters. “I think we’re going to get their best shot. It’s a very good defense. They’re hungry for the ball.”