Through the first two weeks of the season, it’s hard not to be optimistic about what the Patriots have going on. The new-look Patriots cruised to a 21-11 victory in week 1 against Miami, and they were one play away from beating arguably the best team in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks, in week 2. With Cam Newton playing at an elite level, transitioning to life without Tom Brady has been seamless thus far for New England.
Looking ahead to week 3, Newton and the Patriots will be facing another legit opponent in the Las Vegas Raiders, who are coming off a huge 34-24 victory against the talent-rich New Orleans Saints. The Patriots will be without their starting center, David Andrews, who has been placed on injured reserve due to a thumb injury. This injury should not go overlooked as Andrews is the leader of the offensive line and he’s been a major key to the Patriots’ success over the years. That being said, if Cam Newton can continue to use his size and strength to stand strong in the pocket, he shouldn’t have much of an issue continuing to put together efficient drives on a consistent basis.
On the flip side, the Raiders will also be without a key player in rookie wide receiver, Henry Ruggs III, who is out with knee and hamstring injuries. While Ruggs has not yet put up big numbers for the Raiders, he attracts so much attention from defenses due to his elite speed, quickness, and playmaking ability. This attention has allowed fellow receivers Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards to exploit favorable matchups. Not only will their efficiency decrease because of the absence of Ruggs, but also because reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore, will be guarding one of them. I expect Derek Carr to struggle to get the passing game going in this game, which will make them one dimensional and allow the Patriots to turn their focus to stopping star running back, Josh Jacobs.
From a betting standpoint, I believe that Patriots -6.5 is the right pick for this game. Even if the game remains close in the first half, there is no reason why the Patriots can’t pull away in the second half after Josh Jacobs gets worn out and Derek Carr is forced to make plays. As long as Cam Newton continues playing smart and with poise the way he has been, the Patriots should have no problem winning this game.