Leaving Las Vegas in late August, the Patriots headed into the regular season facing a headwind of questions and concerns that have yet to subside.
Their 23-6 loss in the preseason finale featured more of the same offensive struggles seen from the start of training camp through several preceding days of joint practices with the host Raiders. Fourteen weeks later, now accompanied by compounding injuries, the offense remains too frequently inefficient; its modus operandi dominating discussions and driving declarations heard on the 24/7 loop of local sports talk.
All that being said and with four weeks of the season undone, the Patriots enjoy agency over their postseason aspirations. Understanding that circumstances and their schedule leave little to no room for error — either in process or results — here on out, they are 7-6 and currently included in the would-be, seven-team AFC playoff field.
Which, contrary to August appearances in practices or their preseason exhibition, puts the Pats in a much better place than their once-again counterparts, the Raiders. Vegas is 5-8, coming off a seventh one-score loss and, even more remarkably, fourth when holding a double-digit, second-half lead.
A Week 10 loss to the Colts, immediately after Indianapolis replaced fired head coach Frank Reich with coaching novice Jeff Saturday, should have marked the Raiders nadir. Three straight wins and renewed playoff hopes followed. But last Thursday, Carolina castoff Baker Mayfield, in Los Angeles for roughly 48 hours, rallied the Rams from a 16-3, fourth-quarter deficit to a 98-yard, game-winning drive.
Opposite Mayfield, Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr carelessly threw a costly end zone interception late in the first half to crack open the door to the Rams’ much later comeback. Carr finished with just 20 passes attempted, completing only 11, as play-calling head coach Josh McDaniels mostly rode banged-up running back Josh Jacobs.
In the aftermath, while we in New England try to analyze the psyche and scrutinize the gesticulations of quarterback Mac Jones, fans who’ve followed the Raiders from Oakland to L.A. back to Oakland and on to Vegas are calling Carr’s future into question.
Carr signed an extension before the season, but terms of his contract, which runs through 2025, aren’t prohibitive should McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler wish to part ways with him. So Sunday, while playoff contention is on the line for one quarterback, job retention with his current employer may well be what the other is playing for.
Following is a six-pack of numbers and notes regarding Sunday’s encounter.