|Date of game: 9/21/2014
NFL Preview - Oakland (0-2) at New England (1-1) (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - It's only been two weeks, but it feels a lot longer for the Oakland Raiders.
The team has surrendered a league-worst 400 rushing yards in two games, including 188 last week to a team coming off a 2-14 season, which prompted respected veteran and team leader Charles Woodson to say he was "embarrassed" by the way things looked in the season's first month.
His coach, Dennis Allen, agreed.
"You can't allow a team to just run the football down the field on you," Allen said. "That has to change. Like I told the players, run defense is a mentality. Run defense is about lining up across from somebody, hitting them in the mouth, knocking them back, getting off a block and making a play."
It wasn't supposed to be like this for the Raiders, who were 13th in the league against the run last season and brought in a slew of former Pro Bowl players - including Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith - to further shore things up.
The offense did its part against Houston in Week 2, racking up 364 total yards after managing less than half that number - 158 - in a loss to the New York Jets in the opener. Holding onto the ball became a problem in the second outing, however, which saw the Raiders turn it over four times in the opening three quarters while falling into a 27-0 hole.
"We're two weeks into the season. At the same time, you don't want to bury your head in the sand," Allen said. "We've got to get better. We need to do it fast."
Rookie quarterback Derek Carr boosted his aerial numbers from 151 yards against the Jets to 263 against the Texans, but he was picked off twice. He enters Week 3 with an 80.6 passer rating, slightly ahead of New England's Tom Brady at 78.9.
"He's an athletic guy back there," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He can certainly get the ball down the field. We know he's a smart kid."
Problem is, he's also Oakland's No. 1 rusher with 57 yards after two weeks - the team is last in the league with 32 carries for 126 yards. Backfield mate Darren McFadden has just 52 yards, while offseason acquisition Maurice Jones- Drew has managed only 11 in his first two weeks as a Raider, though he did not play last week with an injury to his right hand.
He's questionable for Sunday's meeting with New England.
New England split two road games to begin its 2014 schedule and was 9-0 in Foxborough last season, including a playoff defeat of Indianapolis. The Patriots have won three in a row in the series with the Raiders and have a chance to extend it to four straight for the first time since the AFL days in 1962.
A win would also be the 201st in the regular season for Belichick, which would break a tie with Marty Schottenheimer for fifth-most in NFL history.
No. 200 came in decisive scoreboard fashion in Week 2 at Minnesota, but its offense was nonetheless held to less than 300 total yards and the victory margin was augmented by a blocked field goal return and four interceptions.
Brady completed 66.7 percent of his 21 passes, but still had a less- than-memorable 149 yards. His passer rating is his lowest in his 15-year career and the Patriots find themselves slotted 25th or worse in the league in several offensive categories.
They racked up 163 penalty yards (versus 150 rushing yards) while beating the Vikings, and have been flagged for an NFL-leading 263 yards in two games.
"Our passing game hasn't been stellar to this point. We have to keep going after it," Brady said. "Guys will get opportunities to get more balls, and I need to do a better job of finding those guys when they're open."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Take To the Air
Passers named Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick have managed to complete 37 of 48 throws (77.1 percent) against the Raiders through two weeks, which provides significant reason to believe that a so-far-stifled Brady is poised for a breakout game.
If tight end Rob Gronkowski is healthy and ready to go, he's going to provide an especially tricky matchup problem for the silver-and-black ball-stoppers.
Rookie Learning Curve
Carr has been solid, if not spectacular, through his initial two bouts with NFL-level defenses, including the opener with the always diabolical on rookies Rex Ryan.
Belichick has long been known as a thorn in the side of elites like Peyton Manning, so it's probable that he'll come up with something special for the new kid, too. Expect Darrelle Revis to have his name called at least once, unless Carr breaks through.
There's a game on the league schedule each week where you just look and immediately say to yourself, "oh, that one could get ugly." For fans looking for that matchup this week, this one's a good bet.
The Patriots haven't been themselves through two weeks on the road, but with a home game against a challenged defense it's as good a time as any to flex AFC supremacy muscles.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Patriots 38, Raiders 14