FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The New England Patriots have been mediocre in splitting their first two games. Yet they’re two-touchdown favorites on Sunday.
No surprise, considering they’re facing the Oakland Raiders.
The visitors for the Patriots’ home opener have lost 14 straight games in the Eastern time zone. They start a rookie quarterback who hasn’t won yet, have allowed more yards rushing than any other team, and were dominated last Sunday by a team that lost its final 14 games last season.
The Patriots, echoing coach Bill Belichick’s message that no opponent be taken lightly, ignore the point spread.
“They’re off to a start they obviously didn’t want to get off to, but they’ve got a lot of really good players, especially on defense,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “I think we’re going to get their best shot. It’s a very good defense. They’re hungry for the ball.”
The Raiders’ defense had an interception and a fumble recovery in their 19-14 loss to the Jets. But in their 30-14 loss to Houston, the Raiders had no takeaways while the Texans intercepted two of Derek Carr’s passes and recovered two fumbles.
“There have been obviously negative things that have happened. There have obviously been a lot of positive things that have happened,” Carr said. “Neither really matter to me. I’m just trying to grow.”
The Patriots’ offense also has struggled.
In their 33-20 opening loss to the Miami Dolphins, they gained just 67 yards in the second half when they were outscored 20-0. In a 30-7 win against the Minnesota Vikings, only one drive covered more than 50 yards and Brady threw for just 149.
“We’ve got a lot of football left. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re good at, and we’ll probably be trying to figure that out for a long time,” Brady said. “I don’t think we’re ready for the Super Bowl this week.”
They’re a lot closer than the Raiders. But coach Dennis Allen says they’re headed in the right direction after 11 consecutive seasons without a playoff berth or a winning record.
Nearly 13 years after ex-Michigan teammates Brady and Charles Woodson crashed into history in the “tuck rule” game, the Patriots quarterback and the Raiders safety meet again.
“He was making plays back (in college) and he’s still making plays the same way,” Brady said.
In the final two minutes of regulation in the AFC divisional round on Jan. 19, 2002, Woodson blitzed and knocked the ball out of Brady’s hand as it was moving forward. The Raiders recovered, but the call was overturned on replay. The Patriots kicked the tying field goal, won 16-13 in overtime and went on to their first Super Bowl championship.