September, 19, 2014

After two straight road games, the New England Patriots host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Gillette Stadium (1 p.m. ET) in their home opener. The game will be broadcast on CBS with Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Trent Green (analysis) and Evan Washburn (sideline) on the call.

Here are the key areas of focus from a Patriots’ standpoint:

Stronger start desired. Is there a slower starting team in the NFL than the Patriots? It’s hard to imagine so when considering this is how the Patriots have opened their first two games:

  • Three-and-out after gaining six yards on offense followed by a blocked punt that was turned into a touchdown versus Miami.
  • Surrendering a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in which the defense was sliced up with relative ease versus Minnesota.

So with the vulnerable Raiders coming to town, it’s Football 101-type stuff as to why the coaching staff has stressed a faster start this week. This is the type of situation where you don’t want to give a team on the ropes the chance to recover. Don’t be surprised to see an up-tempo offense right off the bat as a possible spark.

Gronkowski’s snap count rises. Tight end Rob Gronkowski played 38 snaps in the season-opener before the number dipped to 28 in Week 2 against the Vikings, in part because the Patriots were so focused on the run game, and offensive tackle Cameron Fleming was used as a blocking tight end. Gronkowski, who is still rounding into form, seemed to be chomping at the bit for more action last week, and he should see plenty of time early and often in this one. Do we see noticeable progress?

Interior offensive line solidified? After rotating backup center Ryan Wendell into the mix in the season opener in place of right guard …read more