The New England Patriots will provide plenty to watch in Week 15.
The Pats look to move to 8-6 on the season as they prepare to take on the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at 4:05 PM ET at Allegiant Stadium.
With a Buffalo Bills win over the Miami Dolphins on Saturday night, the Pats have a chance to tie the Finns’ record with a win of their own. However, old friend Josh McDaniels and the Silver and Black present quite the challenge, with significant star power on both sides of the ball.
The Patriots, on the other hand, hope history continues to work in their favor. New England has won the last six regular-season games against the Raiders, including the last meeting between the two in September 2020 at Gillette Stadium, when the Patriots won 36-20.
While many Patriots players are expected to get some attention during Sunday’s game, here are three players who could raise eyebrows when the Pats take the field against the Raiders.
Although the network censors are watching him for a completely different reason, Jones and the Patriots face a tough task in Week 15 against the Raiders. Former Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is well aware of Jones’ abilities and limitations. Passing specialists Max Crosby and former Patriot Chandler Jones pose a big challenge to keep the Alabama product under pressure and uncomfortable. To neutralize Las Vegas’ speed and power, Jones may need to turn to Matthew Patricia’s quick game. While that strategy has caused some frustration for the 24-year-old in recent weeks, the Pats may find that screen passes, quick game concepts and run options may be the healthiest strategy for protecting Crosby and Jones. Still, there may be times when the Pats decide to take snaps on the field with heavily guarded play-action concepts. When the Pats test a deep pass, receivers Nelson Agholor and rookie Tyquan Thornton will likely see those targets while wide receiver DeVante Parker is sidelined with a concussion. Ultimately, Jones needs to succeed against the Raiders by returning to the basics of a timing-based passing game based on seam routes from play action and compact, accurate throws.
Despite his recent statistical decline, Judon is still one of New England’s most explosive defenders. He leads the team with 14.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. More importantly, Judon’s presence allows the Pats’ front seven to play the position, helping their ability to set the edge and stop the run. He’s quite adept at keeping the run from reaching the corner on early downs, as well as providing speed and strength when running the quarterback. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr can capitalize on defensive mistakes. As such, the Las Vegas offensive line will try to neutralize Judon’s speed by forcing him to pass the quarterback. The Pats need Judon to have a more balanced plan of attack that focuses on the power rush. When aggressive on the line, Judon will likely keep a sharp eye on the Raiders’ coverage of the Pats’ defensive line, especially second-year running back Christian Barmore, who was activated from injured reserve on Saturday. If Barmore is healthy enough to draw the attention of opposing blockers along the line of scrimmage, Judon can stay one-on-one on the edge to pressure Carr.
Described earlier in the week as a “Swiss Army Knife type of player” by quarterback Mack Jones, Jones emerged as New England’s next versatile weapon. New England’s third-round draft pick (85th overall) played in all three phases of the game. Despite seeing the field on just 22 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, Jones saw time as a perimeter and cornerback. Jones has 14 total tackles, five passes defensed and one interception. In addition, his speed and ability to recognize routes also allowed him to become a potential weapon in specialty packages from the offensive end. The 24-year-old caught all three targets for 63 yards, including a 48-yarder in New England’s Week 13 win over the Bills. However, Jones’ most significant contribution came in 2021 in reviving the infamous return game. The rookie is a phenomenal athlete with significant breakthrough speed. Entering Week 15, Jones had 799 punt return yards (301 punt return yards and 498 punt return yards). He was also first in the NFL with a 14.3-yard punt return average and third in the NFL with a 24.9-yard punt return average. In short, if New England needs a big game on Sunday, Jones could be the catalyst to make it happen.
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