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Versus: Maxx Crosby, defense looking to pump up the volume on New England's offense

Obviously, there's a lot of familiarity between the Raiders and Patriots.

Head Coach Josh McDaniels and General Manager Dave Ziegler, as well as several assistant coaches and players, have spent their fair share of time in New England under Bill Belichick. Now in the desert, they've shaped their own identity. The two teams last met in Week 15 of 2022, with the Silver and Black picking up the victory. Both squads look a lot different since their last outing, so it'll be intriguing to see who can get the upper hand in Allegiant Stadium on Sunday.

Dive into three key matchups to keep an eye on, as the Raiders try to win a second straight game.

Maxx Crosby vs. Mac Jones

The Condor has been cooking.

Maxx Crosby has been on a tear, leading the team in sacks (five), tackles for loss (eight) and quarterback hits (seven). He received his fourth AFC Defensive Player of the Week award of his career, having the most tackles for loss of anyone who played in Week 5.

The next quarterback he'll face is 2021 Pro Bowler Mac Jones. In Week 15 last season, Crosby and the Raiders defense limited him to 112 passing yards and sub-42 completion percentage. Jones started this year hot with 748 passing yards and five touchdowns in his first three contests, but has since posted a 0:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio while completing less than 60 percent of his throws.

Regardless of Jones' recent stats, Crosby is prepared for another fight against a capable quarterback.

"Mac, he's a tough guy," said Crosby. "He wears his heart on his sleeve. He goes out there and he's competitive and he can make a lot of throws. He's more athletic than most people give him credit for. I think he's a really solid player in this league."

Jakobi Meyers vs. J.C. Jackson

Jakobi Meyers has been playing some of his best football of his career this season.

No. 16 has a lot of things going for himself, playing opposite All-Pro receiver Davante Adams in a system he's familiar with from his time playing with the Patriots. Despite missing Week 2's matchup against the Buffalo Bills, he's second on the team in receiving yards (274), catches (25) and tied with Adams for receiving touchdowns (three).

This Sunday, he'll line up against a former teammate in J.C. Jackson. The Pro Bowl cornerback spent his first four NFL seasons with the Patriots before signing with the Chargers in 2022. The Patriots secondary has suffered from injuries, leading to the Pats reacquiring Jackson via trade a couple weeks ago. The trade makes sense for both parties as the cornerback totaled 25 interceptions and 53 pass deflections during his first stint in New England.

"Competitive. He was very durable, got great size, has good speed, good length. Can disrupt at the line of scrimmage," Josh McDaniels said of Jackson. "Excellent ball skills. I think he has more interceptions than anybody since '18. Just a complete player that played a lot of man coverage in New England. Very sticky in coverage. Has a knack for finding the ball when it's in the air.

"They did a good job of reacquiring him and we'll expect to see him on Sunday."

Raiders linebackers vs. Patriots running backs

Robert Spillane, Divine Deablo and Luke Masterson have been playing really well as a unit. They'll be counted on to combat the Patriots run attack, which is arguably the strength of their offense.

Through five games, Spillane and Deablo are the top two tacklers for the team, combining for 46 solo tackles, five tackles for loss, three and two sacks. Spillane is also coming off a career-high two interception game against the Packers. Masterson, a second-year UDFA from Wake Forest, has contributed as well with an 84.3 defensive grade and 85.4 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus.

"We all trust each other out there," Spillane said of the linebacking corps. "I feel very comfortable next to Luke, I feel very comfortable next to Divine and they feel comfortable together. So, we're just going to keep building on that chemistry and trust and keep pushing forward."

The Pats run game is led by Las Vegas native Rhamondre Stevenson, who compiled nearly 1,500 yards from scrimmage in 2022. They've also added three-time Pro Bowler Ezekiel Elliot to the mix, who rushed for 12 touchdowns last season with the Dallas Cowboys.

"Stevenson was one of the league leaders in pass receptions last year, he makes a lot of yards after contact," said McDaniels. "Zeke, same thing. Good out of the backfield in the passing game, makes yards after contact. Those two guys are obviously going to be a focal point for us."

View director of photography Michael Clemens' top picks of black and white photos from the Raiders' Week 5 victory against the Green Bay Packers at Allegiant Stadium.

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