Who's the Guy?
Mac Jones is the straw that stirs the drink for the Patriots offense. Despite his early-season struggles, the second-year pro has the confidence and moxie to uplift an inconsistent offense. If Jones gets it going early, the Patriots' QB1 could pick apart the secondary with an assortment of quick-rhythm throws designed to stretch the defense from sideline to sideline.
Know His Name
Matt Judon has emerged as an elite pass rusher in New England as the designated playmaker in the Patriots' defensive scheme. The veteran has notched 27.0 sacks in 30 games with the team while exhibiting a combination of speed, power and explosiveness that makes him a nightmare to block at the point of attack. With Bill Belichick willing to deploy Judon at a few different spots, all eyes must be on No. 9 when he's patrolling the box as an attacking defender.
Don't Sleep On
Despite Judon's emergence as a top five pass rusher, the Patriots' No. 1 disruptor is Josh Uche. The energetic edge defender has totaled 10.0 sacks in 11 games while flashing outstanding first-step quickness and closing speed. If opponents pay close attention to the veteran pass rusher on the other side of the field, Uche has shown the football world that he is more than capable of taking over the game as a complementary pass rusher.
Matt Patricia, the former NFL head coach and defensive coordinator now serving as the Patriots' offensive playcaller, has been chastised for utilizing a conservative approach despite Mac Jones' presence as QB1. With the offense sputtering and showing a lack of consistent production, the embattled playcaller must cook up an offensive masterpiece to silence some of the naysayers and doubters around the league.
Matchup To Watch: Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones vs. the Patriots offensive tackles
The Raiders' pass rush duo has come to life in recent weeks. Crosby and Jones have flexed their muscles on opponents as edge rushers, and the duo will need to wreak havoc on the Patriots' edge blockers to disrupt Mac Jones' rhythm within the pocket. With injuries threatening to sideline Isaiah Wynn, the Raiders' edge rushers could create enough chaos at the point of attack to force Jones into a subpar performance.
The Patriots offense is a hodgepodge of run-and-pass concepts from different schematic families. Although Patricia has significant experience as an NFL head coach and defensive playcaller, he has suffered through some growing pains as the Patriots' offensive architect. The unit's utilization of a power-based running game to complement a mix of play passes and screens is part of a low-risk approach that keeps New England in games. Considering more games are lost due to self-inflicted mistakes (turnovers, pre-snap or foolish penalties, big plays allowed, and kicking game miscues), the Patriots are attempting to win games by avoiding mistakes.
The Patriots' snowflake game plans continue to befuddle quarterbacks and playcallers around the league. The defense utilizes a vastly different weekly approach based on neutralizing the opponent's most impactful playmakers. Bill Belichick will double-team an elite No. 1 receiver all over the field while stuffing the box with a "plus-one" front to snuff out the running game. Given the Raiders' ability to win games due to the superior skills of Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs, the Patriots could make a concerted effort to force an unheralded player to play a more prominent role in this game.
Head inside Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center to view the best photos from Wednesday's practice.