When talking about the offensive scheme and coordinators of the Patriots defense, you have to begin by talking about Bill Belichick. The offense is lead by coordinator Josh McDaniels but Belichick gets just as much credit for using his offense to find mismatches versus any opposing defense. New England’s offense utilizes a versatile number of players to keep their offense unpredictable and this year is no different.
McDaniels returned to the Patriots for his second stint as offensive coordinator in 2012. He was the head coach of the Denver Broncos for the 2009-10 seasons before becoming the Rams offensive coordinator in 2011. From 2001-2008 he was held the titles of defensive assistant, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. McDaniels spent one season as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. He played quarterback at John Carroll University from 1995-98.
The Patriots are No. 1 in total offense and passing offense. The offensive line doesn’t receive a lot of recognition but the Patriots quietly have a strong group. Football Outsiders has them as the No. 2 ranked run blocking unit based on adjusted line yards. They’re only 16th in rushing yards but that is not because of the offensive line. Still, the Patriots and McDaniels are experts at exploiting mismatches. Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time due to his poise in the clutch and pocket. They can get the ball out fast and allow their skilled players to make plays in the open field. New England has four receivers with at least 374 yards receiving and two rushers with over 300 yards gained on the ground. That means Oakland can expect a balanced attack that utilizes a versatile set of personnel. Expect New England to utilize RB James White as a pass catcher out of the backfield. The Pats utilize passing plays to RBs as ways to giving their RBs touches in space over traditional handoffs. They’re also Brady’s favorite safety blanket. White leads the team in receptions and the Raiders linebackers are inconsistent in coverage. TE Rob Gronkowski is one of the best players at his position ever and the Raiders are notoriously bad at covering the TE. Thus, the Patriots will use this to their advantage especially in the redzone. Martellus Bennett recently rejoined the team and he could see some targets versus the Raiders too. Speaking of mismatches in the middle of the field, the shift Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan (if he plays) are the agile receivers that Oakland can have trouble tackling. Brandin Cooks is the speedy receiver with the highest yards per reception on the Patriots. Last season, Cooks beat the Raiders for a huge gain when he was with the Saints. He can use the same speed against the bigger Raiders DBs who have been liabilities in coverage. They should push the ball up the field and take some deep shots since the Silver and Black have given up a ton of big plays in the passing game this year. New England is also plus six in turnover differential so don’t expect them to make a lot of mistakes.
The Patriots are far from the perfect unit. Despite their strong offensive line, they’re in the middle of the pack for the running game. They could also be without RB Mike Gillislee and OT Marcus Cannon which could take away some leverage of the running game. Gillislee is their best between the tackles runner and leads the team in rushing touchdowns. That may make New England lean heavier on the pass in goal line situations. Speaking of the pass, the Patriots are only 12th in pass protection and have allowed 12 sacks, per Football Outsiders. Without Cannon, Brady will be on an even shorter pass clock. Oakland must exploit this small weakness to pressure Brady into some mistakes. He’s only thrown two interceptions this year so it’s unlikely the first defense to not score an interception through nine games will convert an int on Brady. Thus, their best hope is to rattle Brady into becoming inaccurate. The Raiders defensive line will need to create pressure to keep the New England offense from exploiting the deficiencies in pass coverage. If Brady is given a ton of time in the pocket, it is only a matter of time until he, McDaniels and Belichick find a mismatch in the coverage. Oakland’s only hope is to make Brady uncomfortable. The Patriots have too many talented pass catchers across the board for the Raiders secondary to cover so they will need some help from their defensive line.
The Raiders finally have a real shot at beating the Patriots this season. The two AFC juggernauts face off in Mexico this year.
Considering the Patriots still have the G.O.A.Ts at quarterback and coach (sarcastic), New England should be the favorite. However, the Raiders have a real shot at beating everyone’s most hated dynasty during this regular season.
Last week, a Fox Sports show went viral by saying that and much more. The video said that the Raiders could be the team to end the Patriots’ dynasty since their dynasty began after the controversial 2001 “Tuck Rule” game.
We all remember the fallout from that game. Jon Gruden went to Tampa Bay and took our playbooks with him. With the exception of that horrible Super Bowl loss that included our center going M.I.A., we struggled to find a franchise quarterback. Our team served 14 years as the laughing stock of the league. Meanwhile, the Patriots ascended to football greatness.
Now, the Raiders have finally built a real foundation for a Super Bowl contender. They actually have a real chance to break the curse and switch the projections of the two organizations.
The Patriots aren’t a slouch this season. Besides Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the Patriots will field a wealth of bargain assets that they obtained this offseason. Somehow, the rich got richer. New England added Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, Stephon Gilmore and Kony Ealy via free agency and trades.
So how can the Raiders end the Patriots dynasty?
Start the Carr
The Raiders will only go as far as Derek Carr takes them. We saw that last season when he went down with a leg injury. We witnessed close games that we lost cause Carr couldn’t bring us back.
Last season, Carr gained some hype in the MVP conversation. Now, he must ascend that by dethroning Tom Brady in the regular season. He’s going to have to go to a neutral site and show his teammates that he is not afraid of the greatness of the Raiders.
Win or lose, Carr must play well and he must not quit. If he wants to be mentioned as one of the greats, it starts by beating one of the greatest teams ever.
Defense Wins Champions
You hear that damn cliche every year but it is true. The Raiders will need their defense to beat the Patriots, let alone win a Championship.
It won’t be easy. The Raiders struggle covering tight ends and the Patriots have two of them. Oakland’s big corners also struggle covering small and agile receivers. New England has a slew of those at receiver and running back.
Luckily, the Raiders have defensive coaches with real experience. Starting from the top, guys like Reggie McKenzie, Jack Del Rio, Ken Norton Jr., and many more have experience playing in the league. They understand what it takes to build a real NFL defense. It is time for them to do that considering they’ve made heavy investments during free agency and the NFL Draft over the past two offseasons.
Do it in the postseason
There will be a lot of hype surrounding the Raiders’ prime time showdown with the Patriots during the regular season. Regardless, the Raiders must do it in the postseason to pose a real threat to the evil empire.
No matter what happens during the regular season, the Raiders will probably face New England in the postseason. To be the best, the Raiders got to beat the best. This is the only way the Raiders can fulfill their Super Bowl dreams.
Hopefully, they can go into New England and reverse the curse. Ideally, Oakland will go in there and reclaim the title as America’s most hated team. This will help Oakland gain the confidence they need to win a title and begin a dynasty. Meanwhile, our friends in Navy and Silver can go back to wherever they were before 1998.