Welcome to the 25th edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race in the Perspective of Chase’, an almost daily article on your favorite NFL team. Both of these teams finished 10-7 in 2021. They both have a pretty good quarterback even if one is more favorable. One team clearly has a better running game and one clearly has a better passing game. And the defenses are pretty even. They are two good football teams! What can the Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots do in 2022? Lets, get into this!
Before we get into this I would like to let you know that we are doing something very similar to this on the Cool Sports Newsletter for the NBA if you want to check that out. Also on there we are ranking different NFL positions. So far we have done running backs and wide receivers with quarterbacks posting the day of opening night between LA and Buffalo. But let’s get back into this!
The New England Patriots were an amazing team for literally 19 years! Then Tom Brady leaves and a Cam Newton Patriots go 7-9. But they knew Newton was not the long term answer at quarterback. They wanted someone different. Going into the 2021 NFL draft, there was a lot of speculation that the Patriots (15th overall) were going to trade up to the 3rd overall pick to select Alabama QB Mac Jones, who had been a dominating quarterback for Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith in college. They ended up however staying ay #15. And shockingly, Jones fell all the way to #15, where New England easily accepted him. He ended up starting over Newton who was later waived. He had a very impressive rookie season that rewarded him a Pro Bowl appearance and a 2nd place finish in offensive rookie of the year. He also completed 67.6% of his passes, more than Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and other great quarterbacks! It was a running game however and a stellar defense led by Matthew Judon and J.C. Jackson that was the difference maker in their 10-7 finish. It was good enough for the 6th seed, but they got crushed in Buffalo after splitting with them during the regular season.
The Las Vegas Raiders were not projected to make the playoffs in 2021. They had the talent but many different things were holding them back. But they proved them wrong. They started off amazing, going 5-2 before their bye week in Week 8. Around Week 5 however, was when controversy started in Las Vegas. It was reported that their head coach Jon Gruden had sent very inappropriate emails in a situation I would not like to get into specifics about. But let’s just say it was bad enough for him to be fired by the Raiders and taken off of the Buccaneers ring of honor he joined was inducted to in 2017. The Raiders went 1-45 after the bye, but a 4 game winning streak to end the season gave them a 10-7 record, good enough for the 5th seed in the AFC. They faced the 10-7 AFC North champion Bengals in the Wild Card round, but a game losing interception from Derek Carr sent them home.
Going into the offseason, both teams knew they needed to make upgrades to solidify a playoff spot again in a much more competitive AFC. The Raiders knew that and starting making deals quickly. Before the NFL draft, the Raiders traded their 2022 1st round pick (22nd overall) and their 2nd round pick in the draft (53rd overall) to Green Bay for superstar wide receiver Davante Adams. Adams is coming off of two straight 1st team All Pro appearances with back-t0-back MVP Aaron Rodgers. People are speculating whether or not he will have the same success with now Derek Carr being his quarterback, but I still have faith in Carr making Adams the best version of himself!
Because of the trade, the Raiders didn’t have a notable draft. But the Patriots did on the other hand. With their 1st round pick (29th overall), they selected Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange. While many fans and analysts thought it was a “strange” pick (no pun intended) since not a lot of great players come of Chattanooga, Strange may be an exception. Don’t determine a player from the school they went to. Ravens defensive tackle Travis Jones has been one of the best defensive players throughout training camp and in free agency, and he went to UConn, not a great football school. But no one really knows he got offers from teams in the SEC! They also took QB Bailey Zappe in the 4th round which confused a lot of fans since they have Mac Jones, but as they showed with Tom Brady, they’re never afraid to take their shot on a quarterback late in the draft.
The Patriots didn’t have a great offseason overall. In fact, they downgraded. Interception leader and one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, J.C. Jackson, left the Patriots and signed with the Chargers. This is a big loss for the Patriots, who in hindsight needs a lot of help in the secondary. And that is because after signing Malcolm Butler to a two year deal, the goal line interception man went out with a season ending injury. And they really didn’t make any notable additions in free agency, or through the draft.
The Raiders on the other hand continued what was already an amazing offseason with the Adams trade. They signed Anthony Averett who is actually a very underrated cornerback. After finally getting more time with Baltimore due to injuries in the secondary, he allowed under an 85 passer rating when the receiver he was guarding was targeted. They also made a big move, signing great defensive player Chandler Jones. Jones is definitely not his 19 sack, 2nd in defensive player of the yea player anymore. But he is still a stud! The Raiders also have a few connections with the Patriots. One, Jones is a former Super Bowl champion with New England who also had two double digit sack seasons with them. And secondly, Las Vegas hired New England’s long time offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, as their new head coach. Remember Raiders doubters, he has won 3 Super Bowl championships as an OC with Tom Brady. The guy’s a pretty darn good coach!
So what can these teams do this season. I think after the offseason we can tell Las Vegas is the better team than New England. But New England will always have the coaching advantage with Bill Belichick. They have a great defense, even though the loss of Jackson is a bad one. Both teams have playoff aspirations, even if one team making it is more realistic than the other. My prediction for both teams is below, as who knew two 10-7 teams would feel completely different just a few months later! But we’ll truly see who’s better between New England and Las Vegas in December, when the two face off in Las Vegas on primetime football.
My prediction: The Raiders go 10-7 again, finish with the 6th seed in a very competitive AFC, as New England finishes 9-8, just out of the playoffs. I have the Patriots winning the head to head matchup in a low scoring game however!
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