When New England Patriots fans looked at their team's 2020 schedule back in May, they probably looked at the Week 3 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders and labeled it as a win.
After all, the Raiders haven't beaten the Patriots since 2002 -- a streak of five consecutive regular season losses. Furthermore, the Raiders haven't defeated the Patriots in New England since 1994, which is where Sunday afternoon's game will take place.
But the Patriots should not be taking the Raiders lightly. Las Vegas is 2-0 and coming off an impressive upset win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. The Raiders offense, led by quarterback Derek Carr, is averaging 34 points scored through two games.
Opinions on Carr have varied quite a bit over the last few years. What's not up for debate is the fact he's off to a strong start in 2020. Carr is completing 73.5 percent of his passes for 521 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
On the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, former NFL quarterback Matt Cassel joined Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry to discuss Carr and the Raiders offense as a whole.
"When you look at his production, he's accurate and he gets the ball out quick," Cassel said. "However, he has more of a home run/check down mentality in that he'll get to that check down real quick. He's going to be efficient, his completion percentage is going to be high. I think he's a smart quarterback and he takes care of the ball, but he doesn't take many chances. And when you don't take a lot of chances, you put your team at more of a risk to get behind in games and do that kind of thing.
"With the balance they have now, with Josh Jacobs (at running back) and what they're able to do, if they're able to continue to establish that run game. (Jacobs) hasn't had the same success this year that he had last year in terms of yards per carry just yet -- last year he was over four yards per carry, this year he's only around 3.3 per carry. However, they've got a good offensive line. We saw it on Monday night they did a really good job of time of possession and third down was outstanding. And this is (Carr's) third year with (Raiders coach Jon Gruden)."
A quarterback is often unable to enjoy consistent success if his team doesn't surround him with enough quality players at the skill positions.
Carr has never had an elite wide receiver to target, and the Raiders rushing attack has seldom ranked among the league's best in recent seasons.
Las Vegas has made a genuine effort of late, especially in the draft, to give Carr enough playmakers on offense, and we're starting to see that strategy pay dividends this season. So, if Carr is unable to make it work with Josh Jacobs, Henry Ruggs and Darren Waller, it might finally be time for the Raiders to look for a new quarterback next offseason.
"We mentioned (rookie wide receiver) Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards from South Carolina -- it looks like he can be an explosive athlete. And of course they have Darren Waller, who Bill Belichick was praising up and down earlier this week, and the guy is a tremendous athlete," Perry said.
"If (Carr) has the ability to push it further down the field and be that occasional explosive threat behind center, this is the year they find out (if he's the QB long term). If he can't do it this year, then maybe it's just not there and you start looking at who the next guy should be."
Also discussed in the episode: How concerning was the defensive effort vs Seahawks? Why is the Patriots’ wide receiver core flourishing under Cam Newton? And a look at Sony Michel's lack of production.