How the New England Patriots defend Oakland's league-leading rushing attack (185 yards per game) will undoubtedly be one of the areas of focus in Sunday's game. One week after keeping the ground damage minimal against Fred Jackson and the Buffalo Bills (79 yards on 20 carries), the Patriots will have their hands full with the league's top rusher in Darren McFadden.
The chart below, courtesy of the NFL's Game Statistic and Information System, shows Oakland's success running the ball by direction. Clearly, if the Raiders don't pound it straight up the middle, they prefer to get outside. Aided by last week's 70-yard touchdown run by McFadden against the Jets, Oakland is having incredible success off the left end.
Conversely, here's a look at the Patriots' run defense based on the direction opposing teams have run. Runs to the right side of the line send up a caution flag, but New England simply hasn't been tested much on the ground this season. That should change Sunday.
Patriots defensive end Andre Carter acknowledged on Thursday that the Raiders have put an emphasis on running outside of the tackles in each of their first three games. "That’s something we have to keep an eye on," he admitted. Setting the edge will be key for a New England team that emphasized gang-tackling this week.