Three key matchups to watch in Patriots battle with Raiders
By Fran Brown
After the Patriots kept their playoff hopes alive with a win over the Cardinals on Monday night, they’ll look to firmly establish themselves as a contender in the AFC with a win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. While the Raiders’ 5-8 record may not look that great, they have plenty of firepower and old friend Josh McDaniels who knows the Patriots inside and out.
Meanwhile, the Patriots are dealing with injuries on multiple fronts, including key players on offense (Rhamondre Stevenson, DeVante Parker, and Jakobi Meyers) and defense (Jalen Mills).
Here are three key matchups to watch during Sunday’s game in Las Vegas.
Key matchups for the Patriots in week fifteen
Patriots front seven vs. Josh Jacobs
While the Patriots offense has been stagnant for most of the season, the Raiders’ offense has been explosive in both the passing game and the running game. It looks like coaching can make a big difference.
Leading the running game has been Josh Jacobs, who responded to the Raiders not picking up his fifth-year option by having the best season of his career as he leads the league in rushing yards (1,402) and is third with 11 rushing touchdowns. While most of the league has gone away from having an actual lead back, Jacobs is a true bell cow for Las Vegas as his 269 carries far outpace their second-leading rusher, quarterback Derek Carr (21 carries). One thing to keep an eye on is that Jacobs has been a limited participant in practice this week as he seemed to injure his hand late in their loss to the Rams last week.
The Patriots have surely had their struggles stopping the run at times this season as the Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packer, Chicago Bears, and even the Buffalo Bills were able to keep the ball on the ground. However, the front seven has been playing better as of late, led by Ja’whaun Bentley, Lawrence Guy, and Davon Godchaux. The pending return of Christian Barmore should only bolter this unit as they’ll need to control the line of scrimmage on Sunday.