By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

The 2-1 Patriots, off a loss to Buffalo, travel to Oakland to take on the revitalized, 2-1 Raiders who’ll be playing their third consecutive AFC East opponent. The Raiders are more confident than they’ve been in years after knocking off the Jets last week. The Patriots are very banged up with injuries and reeling a bit with a poor performance that featured very, very sloppy and uncharacteristic play by them in Buffalo. So lets take a look at some of the players and stories surrounding this matchup.

Jason Campbell, #8, Quarterback: Campbell was drafted #25 overall out of Auburn by the Washington Redskins back in 2005. He hasn’t been horrible, but certainly has been a disappointment. At times, he is a decent game manager and has played that role adequately for the Raiders so far this year. He hasn’t made major mistakes, throwing only 1 interception and taking 2 sacks thru 3 games. But still, with a career starting record as a quarterback of 29-38, he has to be considered somewhat of a first round bust. The Raiders remain a bit one-dimensional. There is a way the Patriots can pretty much guarantee a victory in this game. And that is by getting an early lead, which their offense is certainly capable of doing to a lot of teams including the Raiders. If they do that, Campbell simply can not match scores or throw effectively from behind. If the Raiders can run the ball and get some stops on defense, sure Campbell can make a few plays here and there. Get behind and it’ll be a long day for the Raiders Sunday.

Darren McFadden, #20, Running Back: Of course the number one way the Raiders can stay in this game is to get McFadden going early and effectively. If they can establish their power running game, they can avoid falling multiple scores behind and can keep the Patriots fast-paced offense from establishing too much of a rhythm. Drafted at age 20, McFadden struggled his first two years in the league. However, last year, he began to blossom and ran for over 1,100 yards, averaging 5.2 per carry. He also caught passes for over 500 yards. His play has gotten even better this year as he has nearly 400 rushing yards already, including a monster 190 yard game versus the Jets last week. He is averaging 6.4 per carry this year. The Patriots have their hands full, but focusing on stopping McFadden will be their number one priority this week as they try to force Campbell to beat them.

Patriots – Raiders History: The Patriots have had a colorful, and on one occasion tragic, history with the Raiders. All the way back to 1976 a young, improving, Chuck Fairbanks coached Patriots team dominated the 1976 Raiders in Foxboro during the regular season, winning in a rout 48-17. It would be the only regular season blemish for the ‘76 John Madden coach Raiders. In the playoffs, the 11-3 Patriots met the Raiders again, this time in Oakland. The Patriots lead 21-10 late only to see the Raiders come back on the strength of several questionable referee’s calls, including the infamous late hit call on Sugar Bear Hamilton by referee Ben Dreith to keep the winning drive alive  (The Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl.)

In 1978, during an exhibition game, the despicable Jack Tatum paralyzed for life Patriots wide receiver Darrell Stingley.  Tatum never apologized for the hit and never saw or spoke to Stingley afterwards. Instead, he wrote a book called “They Call Me Assassin” and tried to profit off it. In 2010, suffering from chronic diabetes and having lost a leg of his own, Tatum died three years after Stingley had succumbed due to complications from his paraplegia.

And of course every Patriots fan remembers The Tuck Rule Game. Now a decade later, tin-foil hat wearing Raiders fan ramble almost as incoherently as their senile owner, Al Davis, that the NFL is out to get them and the play is proof. What gets lost on forever stuck in adolescence Raiders fans, in between dressing up as Darth Vader, is the play was properly called. You can disagree with the rule, but there was nothing really controversial about the call. Just a lot of confusion initially propagated by the media that a. didn’t know the rule and b. didn’t care to know it, really, because controversy is good for them. But that’s all ancient history anyway. The Patriots were a better team than the Raiders that year and the better team won. The Patriots then, like the Raiders in ‘76, went on to win the Super Bowl. There are some present day connections to the game. Tom Brady is still quarterbacking the Patriots and Bill Belichick is still coaching them. Richard Seymour, then a rookie with a Patriots, is still playing defensive line but now for the Raiders. And finally, Greg Biekert, who “recovered” the incomplete pass, is now coaching linebackers for the Raiders.

Pre-Game Chatter: In an interview with the Contra Costa Time, Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain stated the Patriots were “just a finesse team.” That undoubtedly will be repeated loudly and often behind the walls of Gillette Stadium this week. But the bottom line is, at times the Patriots have been that in recent seasons. Not always. There were certainly times when they were very physical and could play with physical and mental toughness on the level of any NFL team. But there have been other times they haven’t. Definitely not in the way the Patriots did in the Super Bowl winning years. Its not just the offensive or defensive philosophy either. At times its the players. Some of it is youth and inexperience. Not being big game tested plays into it. But perhaps the words of McClain will ring true and the anger will be used productively. The Patriots need to be tougher than the team that lost in the first round of the playoffs to more physical opponents the last two years. Take McClain’s words to heart. Prove him wrong. But then after they do, they need to keep remembering it all season long right into January.

Running Back McFadden has hit on the physical theme recently too. “Coach Hue always tells us we’re building a bully,” McFadden said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against. That’s what we’re trying to do bully them”

Former Patriot Richard Seymour feels the same way “Because we’re pretty physical up front on the offensive and defensive lines. Any time a team wants to come in and play that type of game with us, I like our chances all the time.”

Raiders Fans: Raider fans don’t exactly have a stellar reputation. They even shot a 49er fan during an exhibition game between the two teams this year. Generally, they’re buffoons in their costumes, hyping a team that won two championships in their city over 30 years ago as if they’re one of the great franchises in sports. They’re not. Not even close. A full quarter of NFL franchises have more Super Bowls than the Oakland Raiders two. And that isn’t even bringing up other sports and the many other far more successful franchises than the Raiders. Heck, they got a 2-1 team and haven’t even sold out this game yet. But delusion is Raider fans specialty. Well after costumes, black leather and makeup I suppose. Lets take a look at “Raider Nation” thoughts on the game thru the popular Raider message board

One cthomp5753 sees ties in to 9/11, government conspiracies and global injustice 10 years later when talking about The Tuck Rule Game:

The NFL is a huge multi billion dollar enterprise almost on par with a lot of countries governments. Like our government they know how to manipulate the masses. The stupid Tuck had nothing to do with this, they just knew they had to throw a buzzword out there for the people. The issue was, that ” YOU F/?KING NEED 100% INCONTROVERTIBLE F/?KING EVIDENCE TO OVERTURN THE F/?KING CALL MADE ON THE F/?KING FIELD . You cannot ever tell me they had this evidence. Plain and simple, and I do believe it was a conspiracy to get the PATRIOTS to the SB after 9/11

NossieRaider has actually caught up to the present day and sees an easy Raider victory:

the Pats secondary is HORRIFIC. Just…disgustingly bad.

This isn’t the same Pats’ defense that dominated over the past few years.

I highly suspect McFadden will have a highlight-filled game, and for Campbell to throw the ball very well, too.

Raiders will win and I feel confident in that statement based on what I witnessed today. The Pats are not winning the division.

mranquales says conspiracies are still plaguing the Raiders to this day, victims of flukes and phantoms, but that shouldn’t stop an easy Oakland victory Sunday:

Patriots have no “weapons”. All you have is Tom Brady, an undersized Wes Welker and your offensive line (that’s not healthy). The Raiders have a very good chance at winning this game. We won’t get the turnovers that the Bills did but we can stop the Pats defensively better than most in the league. Our defense is better than people give it credit for, the Bills barely beat us with phantom touchdowns and flukes AND our D was tired. If the Jets couldn’t stop us from running the ball– the Pat’s won’t either, with or without Haynesworth.

Although a quick perusal of Raiders Fans shows confidence is running at remarkably high levels, there is still a few who suggest some potential downside to this matchup, like toobs cruiser:

I doubt our defense will be much help. Gonna have to keep pace point for point and hope for some turnovers.

Prediction: We’re 3-0 so far calling these things in this space and the pressure is on to keep that streak going. So, what will happen? Well, the Raiders are much improved. And like their coach, players and fans say, they can be a very physical team. Darren McFadden is on the verge of becoming a true NFL superstar.

But this is a very bad matchup for them. Their offense is designed to slug it out with teams and run the ball. Campbell is a game manager, but can’t win games if he has to. Their defense, particularly in the secondary isn’t good enough to stop the Patriots from scoring a lot. Forced into a passing game to catch up, the Raiders would be thrown out of their strengths. This is just a very bad opponent for their style and the way they want to try to win and the Patriots should expose them easily.

Patriots 38 Raiders 16