This Sunday feels like a pivotal moment in what is turning into a lost season for the New England Patriots. You feel slightly better about your chances with a win, especially with the schedule getting a little lighter in November. Lose, and it's time to start thinking about Caleb Williams and if Bill Belichick is still your head coach in 2024.
With that as the backdrop, here are three key matchups to watch as the Patriots head back to the scene of the loss that kept them out of the playoffs a year ago.
1. Patriots offensive line vs. Maxx Crosby
The Patriots' offensive line has been bad pretty much since the start of training camp, as injuries, poor draft selections, and dumpster-diving in free agency have taken their toll. Through five weeks, the Patriots rank last in points scored, 29th in rushing yards per attempt, and their quarterbacks have been sacked ten times.
The one guy who seems to get a pass in all of this has been line coach Adrian Klemm, who was hailed as a great offseason hire. Plenty of teams have injuries along the offensive line that they can overcome so it might be time we start questioning the hire of Klemm and how it's working out.
The Raiders don't really have a pass rush; they have Maxx Crosby. Coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and 12.5 sacks in 2022, Crosby has picked up where he left off with five sacks so far on the season. Nobody else on the team has more than one.
The Patriots have been making every defense look great, but they will really need to be on point Sunday afternoon with Crosby lined up against either Trent Brown or whichever human turnstile is at right tackle.