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Key Moments: Wilfork and Ridley make big plays at important times in win over the Raiders

10.02.11 at 7:21 pm ET
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Here are the key moments for both the Patriots’ offense and the defense in Sunday’s win over the Raiders:

DEFENSE: With just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Raiders, the Patriots were holding a 31-13 edge and looking to shut the door on a pesky Oakland team that had been hanging around for three-plus quarters. With the Raiders in a first and 10 at the New England 30, Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell dropped back and looked for running back Darren McFadden out of the backfield.

However, Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork picked off Campbell, and then proceeded to rumble with the ball all the way down to the New England 19. While the Patriots were unable to turn the interception into points, it effectively ended the game for New England. It marked the second interception of the season for Wilfork, who also picked off a ball in the Week Two win over the Chargers, and the second interception of the game for the Patriots, who got a first-half interception from safety Pat Chung in his return.

OFFENSE: The Patriots were holding on to a 17-10 advantage at the start of the second half, but with the New England defense coming off a shaky first half, the lead looked a little tenuous. But the Patriots put together an extremely efficient seven-play, 81-yard drive that took 3:53 and was highlighted by a 33 -yard run from rookie running back Stevan Ridley. The LSU product, who picked up the first touchdown of his professional career, shot around the right side, picking up great blocks from tight end Rob Gronkowski and tackle Nate Solder en route to the end zone. The score made it 24-10, and allowed the Patriots to regain a measure of momentum to start the second half.

Read More: Darren McFadden, Jason Campbell, key moment, Nate Solder

Snap Judgments: Patriots 31, Raiders 19

10.02.11 at 7:19 pm ET
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The Patriots rebounded from last week’s loss in Buffalo with a 31-19 win over the Raiders in Oakland on Sunday.

Tom Brady tossed a pair of touchdown passes, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley each rushed for a score and the defense — while giving up plenty of yardage — came up with a pair of turnovers, including the second INT of the year for Vince Wilfork.

With the Buffalo loss at Cincinnati, the Patriots are now tied at the top of the AFC East with a 3-1 record. They will host the Jets in a much-anticipated contest next Sunday at Gillette.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Wes Welker followed up his record-breaking effort last week in Buffalo with another outstanding performance, catching nine passes for 158 yards and a TD (his fifth TD of the season, Welker has never caught more than eight TDs in a season). Welker leads the NFL with 40 catches and 616 yards.

— Stevan Ridley was an absolute game-changer out of the backfield, rushing for 97 yards on 10 carries. He picked up the first TD of his NFL career with a 33-yard, third-quarter score (with help from a pair of terrific blocks from Rob Gronkowski and Nate Solder). Ridley also ripped off a 15-yard first-half rush (via a direct snap). Ridley was part of a dominant rushing attack for the Patriots, as BenJarvus Green-Ellis also found the end zone (and finished with 74 yards on 15 carries) and Danny Woodhead chipped in with 13 yards on a pair of carries before leaving the game. The Patriots rushed for 184 yards in the win.

— Tom Brady wasn’t exactly sharp but unlike Campbell did not make that critical mistake. He finished 16-for-30 for 226 yards and the two TD passes.

Pat Chung returned on Sunday and made the biggest defensive play of the game in the second quarter. With the Raiders again doing whatever they wanted on offense (they put up 268 yards of offense in the first half), a touchdown seemed a certainty with a second-and-goal at the NE 6 with 2:15 left. But Jason Campbell inexplicably tossed a Tim Wakefield fastball right into the hands of Chung. Not a great play (you’ll never see an easier pick), but it was the trigger of perhaps a 10-point swing, as Brady led the Patriots on a 11-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a Steven Gostkowski 44-yard field goal to close out the half.

Richard Seymour picked up two personal-foul penalties to help the Patriots on the opening TD drive  (including a take-down of Brady on a play that has already been whistled dead), part of a seven-penalty (85 yards) first half for the Raiders.

Nnamdi Asomugha and Darrelle Revis have combined for as many INT’s has Vince Wilfork this season. Wilfork looked like a middle linebacker (OK, a 350-lb middle linebacker) on his INT of Campbell Sunday, dropping back into coverage and reading exactly where the QB was going to go.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— Injuries, injuries, injuries. First it was Kyle Love (who did return), Jerod Mayo, Danny Woodhead and Dan Connolly all went down on Sunday. Obviously the Mayo injury is the headline — his left knee, injured on the second-quarter drive that ended with the Chung interception. For this struggling defense to lose its best player for any length of time would be troublesome, but if this turns out to be a season-ender for Mayo it’s fair to wonder if this team can recover.

— Yup, they were opportunistic, but the defense was again shaky, giving up a total of 504 yards of offense. This group has now allowed 14 drives of 70 or more yards this season. Third-down? The Raiders finished 8-of-12. Stopping the run? Darren McFadden rushed for 75 yards on 14 carries (the Raiders picked up 160 yards on 27 carries). Brandon Spikes, Rob Ninkovich and Mayo had difficulty in coverage and cornerbackswas beat several times by Darris Heyward-Bey (on one of the Heyward-Bey Sergio Brown took a horrible angle and missed an easy hit). Shaun Ellis whiffed on a couple of chances to stop McFadden for losses, and Chung had a tough time covering Kevin Boss.

—  Quiet day for Rob Gronkowski, who finished with just one catch (15 yards).

Halftime analysis: Patriots 17, Raiders 10

10.02.11 at 5:44 pm ET
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The Patriots and the Raiders are done with two quarters in Oakland, and New England holds a 17-10 lead. Here are a few quick notes:

‘€¢For the second consecutive week, it’s clear the offense would be lost without Wes Welker. The receiver made a series of big catches and came away with 60 receiving yards and a touchdown catch in the first half. Meanwhile, Tom Brady ended the first half with 8-for-17 for 121 yards and one touchdown passes. On the other side of the ball, Jason Campbell — who clearly looks very comfortable in the Oakland offense — went 11-for-15 for 144 yards and one interception. Darren McFadden had eight carries for 57 yards.

‘€¢On defense, the Patriots lost defensive lineman Kyle Love with an ankle injury in the first quarter and linebacker Jerod Mayo to a knee injury in the second quarter, leaving an already hobbled defense in even bigger trouble. Overall, the Patriots, who had done a pretty good job limiting tight ends through three games (eight catches for 98 yards and one touchdown coming into today), yielded some early yards to Oakland tight end Kevin Boss, as the ex-Giant accounted for 35 of the 50 yards on the Raiders’ opening drive, a series that ended with a 28-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski to make it 3-0. After the Patriots’ first touchdown of the day, things got ugly after that, as the Raiders pulled together a six-play, 88-yard drive — which included a nasty 41-yard gain from McFadden — to make it 10-7 early in the second quarter.

‘€¢On the other side of the ball, former New England defensive lineman Richard Seymour was clearly jacked up about facing his old mates — he took two bad penalties on the Patriots’ opening drive for a total of 30 yards, helping New England put together its first touchdown of the game on its first drive. (Overall, the Raiders were flagged for a staggering seven penalties for 70 yards in the first half.) On that series Patriots picked up 15 yards on a direct snap to running back Stevan Ridley, a move that veteran Kevin Faulk has perfected on his career with the Patriots. (My personal favorite came in Super Bowl XXXVIII.) That series, which went nine plays, 80 yards and took 4:19, ended with a 15-yard pass from Brady to Welker on a play where Welker got a nice rub from Chad Ochocinco to get open inside the 10 and take it the rest of the way for the score to make it 7-3.

‘€¢After the Raiders first score, the Patriots put together another good series in the second quarter when they assembled a six-play, 64-yard drive that included completions to Welker of 21 and 24 yards, and ended with a one-yard plunge into the end zone from BenJarvus Green-Ellis to make it 14-10 midway through the second quarter. Stephen Gostkowski added a 44-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the half to finish the scoring over the first half.

Live Blog: Patriots, Tom Brady look to rebound against Raiders in Oakland

10.02.11 at 4:42 pm ET
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Patriots/Raiders

Setting the scene: Patriots-Raiders

10.02.11 at 1:09 pm ET
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The Patriots travel across the across the country today for a game against the Raiders and have their hands full against Run DMC and the Raiders offense.

But the fascinating question today is whether the Raiders decide to try and take advantage of the Patriots secondary, which will be without Leigh Bodden and Ras-I Dowling, or whether they go with the NFL’s leading rusher in Darren McFadden to wear down the Patriots defensive line, again without Albert Haynesworth – who didn’t make the trip with a bad back.

Bodden is out with a groin injury while Dowling is on the sidelines with a hip injury. The Patriots have also ruled out tight end Aaron Hernandez with a knee injury while Mike Wright is out with a concussion.

While the Patriots have allowed more yards than any defense in the NFL (468.7), they have been strong against the run, ranked 10th in the NFL, allowing just 91.7 yards per carry and three TDs on the ground.

The Raiders will also be up against it facing Tom Brady as they will be without cornerback Chris Johnson, out with a hamstring injury.

Add to that free safety Michael Huff, who is questionable with a concussion, suffered last week against the Jets, and we could be watching yet another AFL-style shootout at O.co Coliseum.

The Raiders will have to turn to the likes of Joe Porter and Chimdi Chekwa, who took turns replacing Johnson last week until defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan opted to stay with Chekwa, a rookie fourth-round draft pick this year.

DeMarcus Van Dyke could also fill in for help behind Johnson while Matt Giordano fills in at free safety if Huff is sidelined. to their bench for help in trying to slow down the NFL’€™s top-ranked offense led by the AFC’€™s best quarterback in Brady.

‘€œNext man up,’€ Raiders coach Hue Jackson said. ‘€œCan’€™t worry about it. (If) he’€™s out, he’€™s out. Next man up.’€

Unlike 2008 when Matt Cassel and the Patriots went out to the Coliseum and beat the Raiders on a muddy field, 49-26, this game figures to be played in mostly sunny conditions on a brand new turf, as the field has been completely re-sodded for today’s game after the A’s baseball season ended on Wednesday night.

Temperatures are expected in the mid-70s for today’s game as the 2-1 Raiders host the 2-1 Patriots.

The Patriots and Raiders have split the previous 29 meetings, with each team winning 14 times and the two teams battling to a 43-43 tie on Oct. 16, 1964 in an old-style AFL shootout at Fenway Park.

Hard to believe but this is just Tom Brady’s second game in the Bay Area as a member of the Patriots. He was the quarterback in 2002 when the Patriots last lost to the Raiders, 27-20, on Sunday night football. He was out for the 2008 season when Cassel led the Patriots to a shootout win at Oakland.

Read More: Darren McFadden, Jason Campbell, Leigh Bodden, New England Patriots

Fantasy Football: Latest on Frank Gore, Jeremy Maclin

10.02.11 at 10:52 am ET
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NFL Network’s Albert Breer is reporting that San Francisco’s Frank Gore will play this week after spraining his ankle in the second quarter of last Sunday’s 13-8 win over the Bengals.

“There’s Frank Gore warming up. He’ll play this afternoon, ? is how ankle holds up over the course of the day,” Breer tweeted Sunday morning.

Gore has struggled this season with the 49ers even before his injury. He earned 148 rushing yards on 59 attempts and is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry this season. If Gore plays Sunday, he likely will not receive the majority of the carries, as San Francisco rookie Kendall Hunter will likely serve as the main running back should Gore fail to perform well. Gore was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Eagles.

Breer also reported via Twitter that Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will play Sunday despite being limited in practice this week with a hamstring injury. Maclin has been the most consistent receiver this season for the Eagles, making a team-high 19 catches for 260 yards and two touchdowns through the first three games. Maclin was listed as probable for Sunday’s game against the 49ers.

St. Louis officially declared Danny Amendola out Sunday for the Rams game against the Redskins. Amendola has not played since dislocating his left elbow in the season opener against the Eagles. After reports emerged immediately after the injury that Amendola would miss the season, sources now say that Amendola should return close to 100 percent following the Rams’ Week 5 bye.

New Orleans announced that Marques Colston will play Sunday against the Jaguars but Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer is reporting that Colston will only see 15-20 snaps, which is consistent with the Saints tradition of easing injured players back into game action. Colston has not played since breaking his collarbone in Week 1 against Green Bay.

Read More: Fantasy Football, Frank Gore, Jeremy Maclin,

Fantasy Football: Rotobahn’s Week 4 starts and sits

10.02.11 at 9:34 am ET
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Here are our starts and sits for Week 4. A quick word on how we put these together. We look for the players that are on the edge of lineups as much as we can. We try to stay away from the obvious plays. Nobody needs us to tell them to start Tom Brady or Adrian Peterson. If any of these picks creates a tougher decision for you, please feel free to check out our complete player rankings at Rotobahn.com.

QUARTERBACKS:

Starts

Ryan Fitzpatrick at Bengals

Unless you have a stud on hand, Fitz is a good play. The Bengals play solid defense, but they have no answer for what Buffalo does on the outside. Too many weapons.

Rex Grossman at Rams

He’€™s been solid and we like him in this matchup. The Rams haven’€™t stopped much through the air all year and Grossman has underrated weapons.

Eli Manning at Arizona

I’€™m digging the road quarterbacks this week. Eli should do well in this one after posting nice numbers in a much tougher matchup last week. Start him if you normally would, or snag him off of the waiver wire if you are in need.

Sits

Joe Flacco vs. Jets

The Ravens can win, but Flacco will face high-end resistance in the form of Revis and Cromartie. He’€™ll post some numbers, but this will be a down week for him relative to a typical Flacco performance. Look elsewhere if possible.

Matt Hasselbeck at Browns

The Titans new QB is down to one solid receiver in Nate Washington, and Nate is going to get stud CB Joe Haden on him all day long. Not a recipe for a good fantasy day.  Look elsewhere.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Starts

Santana Moss at Rams

Just like with Grossman, we see this as a great matchup. Moss is healthy and playing very well. Grossman is looking for him consistently and we think he’€™ll be finding him consistently this week. Get Santana in there. Oye Como Va!

Steve Smith at Chicago

Carolina should throw it a lot and we fully expect Smith to bounce back from his low output week two. He’€™s healthy and Chicago will not be able to double him consistently with all of Carolina’€™s other targets. A big game is very possible.

AJ Green vs. Bills

He had a tough game last week as he made a bunch of rookie mistakes, but we see him bouncing back strong here. The Bills aren’€™t that strong in coverage, just ask Wes Welker, and the Bengals will be playing from behind. Green’€™s a good play in any format.

Eric Decker at Green Bay

Denver will be trailing and Decker is getting targeted very consistently. He’€™s a solid option in PPR, but he is very capable in the red zone as well with his toughness and size … that makes him a sound option in performance league too. He’€™s a nice WR3 this week.

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