1. Kick 'em while they're down The Raiders have shown flashes at times this season, with wins over the Jets and Broncos and a pair of close losses to the Bills and Dolphins. But this Oakland squad doesnít appear to be playing like the team that upset the Jets in October. The Raiders have lost six of their last seven and have gone 2-7 since they promoted offensive line coach Tom Cable to interim head coach in place of the fired Lane Kiffin just four games into the season after a public feud with owner Al Davis. This is only the third time the Patriots have met the Raiders since the famous Snow Bowl/Tuck Rule game in the 2002 playoffs.
2. Force the pass For the second time in three games, the Patriots will face an opponent coming off extra rest; the Raiders lost to the Chargers on Dec. 4, 34-7. But even a few extra days of practice might not help Oaklandís offense ó the Raiders are 30th in the league at just 13.8 points per game and 31st in the NFL with 255.6 yards per contest. They also have the worst passing attack in the NFL at 137.2 yards per game, and second-year quarterback JaMarcus Russell has struggled, with a 70.1 quarterback rating and a 51.4 completion percentage. Justin Fargas has emerged as the teamís No. 1 running back with 679 yards rushing; Fargas and exciting rookie Darren McFadden (88 carries, 405 yards) give the Raiders the 10th-best rushing attack in football at 118.5 yards per game. Oaklandís biggest threat may be kick returner Johnnie Lee Higgins, who has a pair of punt returns for touchdowns this season.
3. Run around Defensively, the Raiders may pose a problem to New Englandís spread passing attack: They have the ninth-ranked pass defense at 193.9 yards per game behind strong safety Gibril Wilson (102 tackles). However, the Patriotsí running backs are as healthy as theyíve been in a while, and Oakland hasnít been quite as stout against the run. The Raiders are 30th in the NFL in run defense at 158.7 yards per game and 26th in total yards at 352.6. Middle linebacker Kirk Morrison leads the team with 113 tackles.