Raiders vs. Patriots: 5 Questions with Ethan Hammerman


The Oakland Raiders travel to Foxborough this Sunday to take on the New England Patriots, in what will be Oakland’s toughest contest so far this season.

While working on a preview for this game, I decided to reach out to Patriots writer Ethan Hammerman, who writes for Pats Pulpit, and get some thoughts from a different perspective.  Here are five questions I asked him and his responses.

1) Can you admit to everyone in #RaiderNation that the Tuck Rule was the wrong call?

Ethan: Rules are rules.

The Raiders have struggled for years on run defense, and that seems to be the case again so far this season. Which Patriots running back should Raiders fans be most worried about on Sunday?

Ethan: Shane Vereen poses a huge matchup problem in the passing game, but Stevan Ridley is the main rusher. When he can keep both hands on the ball, he showcases great ability as a jump cutter and is able to grind out the tough yards. Vereen is deadlier on draws, though, and his speed could expose the Raiders’ age on defense. The Raiders should worry on both, but focus more on Ridley, as he is the more likely one to actually run the ball.

2) Is there a player that is not a household name who might make a big impact on this game?

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Ethan: While Darrelle Revis gets the hype, Devin McCourty is probably a top-three safety in football. His ability to blanket the deep middle of the field should give Derek Carr fits as he tries to look for open receivers. Additionally, Donta Hightower has looked like a new man this year as a pass rusher. Both of these youngsters on defense are underrated by many, but they will be key aspects for New England on Sunday.

3) What Patriots weakness do the Raiders need to exploit in order to have a shot at winning this one?

Ethan: If the Raiders can get to Tom Brady, who knows what may happen? The Patriots’ offensive line is still in a bit of flux, and interior pressure could help to slow down the run game and make them into a more one-dimensional team. If the Raiders can confuse the interior line and get into the backfield, this game could take a turn in favor of the silver and black.

4) Name one Raiders player on offense and one player on defense that the Patriots are most worried about…who they definitely will be game-planning for?

Sep 7, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Oakland Raiders fullback Marcel Reece (45) carries the ball against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ethan: On offense, Marcel Reece is the type of hybrid player that the Patriots will game plan around. His ability as a runner and a receiver make him the kind of athlete that Bill Belichick will be sure to focus his efforts on – heck, he’s probably a prospect who could end up in New England before his career is all said and done. The Patriots will probably trust their secondary to run with the Oakland receivers and hit Reece every time he strays from the line of scrimmage, bracketing him with a safety brought into the box or a cover LB.

Defensively, the Patriots tend to try and find mismatches and scratch where it itches. The key player this week may be Miles Burris, as the Patriots will probably look to attack him in coverage with their tight ends and slot receivers.

5) Last two things: Anything else you would like to add? The floor is yours.  And then also, what is your prediction for the game?

Ethan: This game, to me, comes down to the Oakland defensive front and how many turnovers the New England defense can force. Predicting the score of this game is more like a mathematical equation than an actual statement – it all depends on how many interceptions Derek Carr throws and/or how many fumbles the Raider backs have, as New England will be sure to confuse him with a bevy of different looks.

If Oakland is able to get pressure on the Patriots and rattle Brady, they may have a shot in this battle. However, that will be easier said than done, and given both teams’ performances over the first two weeks of the season the Patriots should be favored by a fairly sizable amount in this game.

Therefore, here is the final score prediction:

New England = 7x*
Oakland = 13

*x= number of Raider turnovers