New England Patriots Defense Gets Tested Again This Week by the Oakland Raiders

After three weeks, 18 teams boast a 2-1 record or better. That ties 2010 for the most teams with a .667 winning percentage or better through Week 3 in NFL history. And two of the three teams sitting at 3-0 – Buffalo and Detroit – were 0-3 a year ago.

“It feels good to be 3-0,” says Bills quarterback RYAN FITZPATRICK. “That being said, we’re three games into the season and there’s still a lot of games to be played and a lot of work. The goal is to get better every week and we need to continue to do that.”

There is a lot of football left to be played. And while a strong start to the season is a good thing – 75.9 percent of teams (82 of 108) that started 3-0 since 1990 made the playoffs – it is hardly a guarantee of future success.

“We’re winning but guys are keeping it in perspective,” says Lions linebacker DE ANDRE LEVY. “I don’t think anybody’s getting too far ahead of ourselves. We know we’ve still got a long way to go and a lot of things to accomplish.”

Since 1990, 52 teams with a losing record after the first three games made the playoffs. So, entering Week 4, hope is still very much alive for everyone.

And the unpredictability of the NFL was on display in Week 3 as 12 contests featured second-half lead changes, 12 games were decided by seven points or fewer – tied for the most ever in a single week in NFL history (Week 15, 1993 and Week 12, 2003) – and two teams (Buffalo, 21 points; Detroit, 20) completed comebacks from 20+ point deficits for the first time since September 12, 1999.

The Bills, who erased a 21-0 deficit and defeated New England 34-31, became the first team in NFL history to win consecutive games in which it trailed by at least 18 points in each contest. The Lions, who trailed 20-0 at halftime and came back to win 26-23 at Minnesota in overtime, became the 10th team in NFL history to win a game in which it trailed by at least 20 points at halftime after being shut out in the first half.

“You have to keep playing in this league,” says Buffalo head coach CHAN GAILEY. “There are ups and downs in this game. Just handle the ups and downs and keep playing. If you keep playing, good things will happen to you. Our guys keep playing. You have to give them their due in the character department.”

Like the first three weeks of the season, there are plenty of enticing games on the schedule in Week 4. Among them:


DETROIT LIONS (3-0) at DALLAS COWBOYS (2-1) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)

The Cowboys have won two in a row and will face the 3-0 Lions on Sunday afternoon.

Detroit rebounded from a 20-0 halftime deficit to win at Minnesota in Week 3, 26-23 in overtime. Quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD passed for 378 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the comeback.

“It’s just a big win for us to win a division game on the road after being down 20 at the half,” says Stafford. “We made clutch kicks, clutch plays on defense and guys made unbelievable plays on offense. That’s what you have to have sometimes. Sometimes they come a little easier than that and this is one of the toughest games I’ve ever been a part of.”

Lions wide receiver CALVIN JOHNSON had seven catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns and became the first player in NFL history to have at least two receiving TDs in each of a team’s first three games of a season.

Dallas got six field goals from rookie kicker DAN BAILEY on Monday night to beat Washington 18-16. It marked the ninth consecutive game for the Cowboys decided by three points or fewer, the longest such streak in NFL history.

Bailey’s six field goals tied for the most by a rookie in one game – GARO YEPREMIAN (1966) and JEFF REED (2002).

“Dan’s a great kicker,” says wide receiver DEZ BRYANT, who had a key 30-yard reception from TONY ROMO on third-and-21 to set up the winning kick. “I went to school (Oklahoma State) with him and he used to hit them all the time. Dan has become better than good. He’s tremendous and ended up winning the game.”



Two of the league’s best offenses will meet in Oakland. The Patriots enter the contest with the NFL’s best passing (437.7 yards per game) and total (540.3) offense while the Raiders lead the league in rushing (185) offense.

New England is led by quarterback TOM BRADY, who has passed for 1,327 yards this season, the most ever for any three-game span in NFL history. Last week at Buffalo, Brady had 387 yards and four touchdowns and leads the league with 1,327 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wide receiver WES WELKER had 16 catches for 217 yards and two scores versus the Bills and he tops the NFL in receptions (31) and receiving yards (458).

The Patriots will face a Raiders team that knocked off another AFC East contender last week, defeating the New York Jets 34-24.

“It’s a great challenge for us,” says New England linebacker JEROD MAYO on facing Oakland. “Their offense has a lot of weapons. It’s a great challenge for our mental toughness.”

One of the Raiders’ weapons is running back DARREN MC FADDEN, who rushed for a career-high 171 yards and two touchdowns (70 and two yards) while averaging nine yards per carry versus the Jets. McFadden, the NFL’s leading rusher (393 yards), and Welker are tied for the NFL lead in scrimmage yards with 477.

“Let your players make plays,” says Raiders rookie head coach HUE JACKSON about his philosophy. “That’s what I’m trying to create here. I’m going to create an environment where our great players can do something special.”


NEW YORK JETS (2-1) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-1) (Sunday, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)

A key AFC matchup will take place in primetime on Sunday night when the Jets visit the Ravens.

New York head coach REX RYAN will look to get his defense back on track against a team he used to coach as the  defensive coordinator.

“This is a bend in the road right now,” says Ryan. “But I can tell you one thing, I believe we’ll get this thing fixed.”

Jets running back LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON reached a milestone last weekend when he scored on an 18-yard touchdown reception, the 160th TD of his career. He joined Pro Football Hall of Famers JERRY RICE (208) and EMMITT SMITH (175) as the only players in NFL history to score 160 touchdowns.

The Ravens posted an impressive 37-7 road victory at St. Louis in Week 3. Wide receiver TORREY SMITH had three touchdown receptions (74, 41 and 18 yards) in the first quarter and became the first rookie in NFL history with three TD catches in the first quarter of a game.

“Torrey has really been catching the ball well in practice,” says Baltimore head coach JOHN HARBAUGH. “I think he and JOE (FLACCO) are starting to tie this thing together.”