New England Patriots vs. Oakland Raiders Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

New England Patriots (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (2-1 SU, 3-0 SU), 4:15 p.m. EST, NFL Week 4, Sunday, October 2, 2011, Coliseum, Oakland, California, TV: CBS
by Scotty L., NFL Handicapper,

Point Spread: NE -4.5/Oak +4.5
Over/Under Total: 53.5

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The New England Patriots head West to take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon. It’s not often where one can say this, but the Raiders are coming off a big win, while the Patriots are licking their wounds after a heartbreaking defeat. Usually, those roles are reversed, but the Raiders have shown they are ready for an upsurge. In a 10-point win at home against the 2-0 Jets, they showed that perhaps this game isn’t the laughingstock that we have recently been conditioned to think.

The fact that a New England team with Tom Brady averaging 440+ yards passing per game is such a modest favorite against Oakland shows a new respect for this Raiders team. Long mired in shambles, they partially emerged last season with an 8-8 mark. This year offers new promise; with an opening week win at Denver, followed two weeks later with a win over the Jets. In between, they lost a 3-point game at Buffalo, which looked a lot worse before that same Bills team beat the Patriots on Sunday-also by a field goal.

One might be concerned about most teams that blew a 21-0 lead at Buffalo to lose by a last-second field goal. With the Patriots, it shouldn’t be too much cause for panic. After easily handling Miami and San Diego, they probably grew a little complacent upon seeing themselves up by 3 touchdowns and let their foot off the gas pedal. They were facing an uppity Bills team with a plucky young QB and got nipped at the wire. It’s going to happen in this league.

If anything, the loss should refocus them. The way their defense allowed the Bills to come back was not inspiring, but Brady’s 4 picks didn’t help. It drowned out an otherwise powerful performance by Brady and Co. that saw him rack up 387 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR Wes Welker caught an amazing 16 balls for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns. Their running game was kept in check for the most part, but aren’t teams allowed to lag in certain areas from time to time?

It looks like the Raiders are really responding to new head coach Hue Jackson. On defense, there is no question that some key losses in the offseason have taken their toll, but the offense looks prepared to answer the call. QB Jason Campbell has been efficient and steady-a big improvement considering recent Raiders quarterbacking issues. Darkhorse rookie Denarius Moore is developing into a nice little playmaker, leading the team in receiving yards.

But most important is the continued blossoming of RB Darren McFadden. His 1152 yards and 5.2 rushing average in 2010 signaled a coming out party. This year, however, he seems to be taking it to the next level. Against the Jets, he was lethal, rushing for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns against a normally stingy “D.” A 70-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter had that kind of “WOW” factor that really seems to confirm what a star McFadden has become.

McFadden hurt his groin apparently, but will play on Sunday. The Patriots took some knocks too, with TE Aaron Hernandez and DT Albert Haynesworth among the injured, with both being questionable for Sunday. As far as motivation is concerned, both teams have a lot on the line. It’s almost a fork-in-the-road moment for Oakland. Will they rise to the occasion or show they still need time? For the Patriots, they certainly want to avoid going an unseemly (for them) 2-2 and Brady is looking to atone against a defense that on paper; might be in over its head.

Scotty L’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Oakland is showing signs of life, especially on offense. Defensively, it’s another story. This “D” has given up 117 yards rushing to Buffalo’s Fred Jackson, 304 yards passing against Kyle Orton in their win over Denver, and 369 yards to Mark Sanchez on Sunday. Numbers can be misleading, but against an irritated Tom Brady who is on fire and a New England offense that will be looking for blood, the Raiders will be put to the test. Look for a close game to break out a bit late with the Patriots getting the cover. Take the Patriots minus 4.5 points.

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