Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots will play for the third week of NFL 2014 regular season. These two teams haven’t squared off since 2011, a 31-19 victory for New England. A lot has changed for both teams since then, but unsurprisingly, even more has changed for the Raiders. They have a different head coach, quarterback and general manager.
In fact, the Raiders had three different starting quarterbacks last year with Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn and Matt McGloin, but it looks like they will have a different starter with Matt Schaub now in the fold. Schaub played poorly last year, with 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions including starting the season with six straight games with an interception returned for a touchdown.
Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen could have been part of the NFL casualty list last season. A 4-12 record with limited stars, many injuries and no team direction tends to wear out a coaches welcome.
But the Raiders, ever the team of mismanagement and disillusion, kept Allen and hoped the free agency period and NFL Draft would bring riches, starters and depth to a team that had one of the worst rosters in football.
A new quarterback, new running back, depth at receiver and on both lines may help, but there is still a long way to go for this franchise. And a schedule that can only be talked about as brutal.
The Raiders had the worst record in the AFC West last season at 4-12, and they won just one road game all season, against the Houston Texans, who finished with the worst record in football at 2-14. The Raiders have added a lot of pieces through free agency: wide receiver James Jones, defensive tackle Antonio Smith, defensive end Justin Tuck, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, right tackle Austin Howard and outside linebacker Lamarr Woodley, among others.
The Raiders have been atrocious when traveling to the east coast in recent years. Allen still doesn’t have a win in the eastern time zone as the head coach– he’s 0-7. The Raiders have come close to victories on the east coast, but they will have to do better than close against a team like the New England Patriots.
A lot like the Broncos, the Patriots are tough to beat at home. In the last two seasons, the Patriots have lost just two home games. One game was an 18-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2 of the 2012 season, and the other was a playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game in January 2013. The Patriots were perfect at home during the 2013 season and postseason.
The Patriots are still one of the best teams in the AFC, so the Raiders will have to play their best to even have a shot.
The New England Patriots overachieved in 2013 by finishing 12-4 but they easily could’ve gone 9-7 if not for some lucky breaks. They will need some of that luck because they enter the 2014 season with the 10th toughest schedule and play six games against teams that made the playoffs in 2013. Brutal road stretches will once again be a challenge, but they should still make the playoffs. Here are predictions for every game this coming season.