LAS VEGAS (WPRI) — The playoff push is heating up with just four games left in the regular season, and the Patriots are in the thick of it.

After taking down the Cardinals on Monday night, the team stayed out west and held practices at the University of Arizona ahead of their next game on Sunday.

Up next are the Raiders, led by old friend Josh McDaniels, who’s spent the better part of his more than 20-year coaching career in New England.

This marks the second time that McDaniels and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick have gone head-to-head in the regular season, the last being in 2009 when McDaniels was coaching the Broncos. He walked away from that game with a 20-17 overtime win over his former and future team.

The 5-8 Raiders have struggled this season, especially considering the talent and expectations they had heading into the campaign. They’re coming off a 17-16 loss to the lowly Rams.

The 7-6 Patriots currently hold the 7-seed in the AFC playoffs and they can greatly help their postseason chances with a win on Sunday. They have a tough three-game stretch to end the year, with home games against the Bengals and Dolphins before wrapping up on the road against the AFC-leading Bills.

The Patriots will be without CB Jalen Mills, WR DeVante Parker, and OL Isaiah Wynn.

The game was originally scheduled for Sunday night, but was flexed out of the primetime spot by the league. Kickoff is now scheduled for 4:05 p.m. on FOX.

Below are some notes and quotes to get you ready for kickoff:

Notes

  • The Patriots are on track to become the first team in more than 50 years to finish in the top 10 for points allowed per game for 11 straight years. They’re currently ranked 5th in the NFL.
  • The Patriots have won the past six regular season matchups with the Raiders. Their last meeting was a 36-20 win for New England in September 2020.
  • The Patriots have a 21-14-1 overall record against the Raiders, including 3-0 in the playoffs.

Quotes

Bill Belichick on the Raiders: “Obviously, a good offensive system and defensively, well put-together scheme with Coach [Patrick] Graham. Don’t give up many big plays, one of the best in the league at that. Obviously, you have two elite pass rushers and a lot of other experienced players. The kicking game, we’ve talked about that. These two kickers are two of the biggest legs in the NFL. Can change field position. Offensively, they play on a short field. Pretty much as soon as they get to the 40-yard line, they’re in field goal range, maybe in the 45. Then the return game has been good for them as well. A really well-balanced team that’s just a handful of plays away from being probably in double digit wins. Impressed watching them on film and we’re going to have to play well Sunday, so that’s what we’re preparing to do.”

McDaniels on Belichick’s impact on his career: “I wouldn’t be here or in the National Football League if it wasn’t for Bill. Robert, Jonathan gave me a great opportunity a long time ago. He’s been invaluable to me in a lot of ways, hard to measure all of them, football background and understanding how this league works.”

Patriots QB Mac Jones on McDaniels: “I think Josh is a great coach, great person, just really good leader. Just really prepared me really well last year. Obviously got his chance to coach a football team, and he’s done a great job. At the end of the day, it’s us against their defense. Then, obviously, they’ll go against our defense. It’s how you have to look at it, but he knows a lot of our stuff. Then obviously, we’re familiar with them too. I think it’s a good matchup. He’s done a good job there, watching his games, whether it’s crossover film or seeing it on TV. Done a good job, been in a lot of close games, that could’ve gone either way, so just a really good football team that we’ve got to be ready to go.”

Belichick on Raiders RB Josh Jacobs: “He leads the league in rushing. Strong, tough kid to tackle. Has got good contact balance. Very powerful guy, has good patience, sees the hole, sees lanes and as we saw, has breakaway speed. He’s been able to go the distance and create some explosive runs, not just five- and six-yarders, but he’s had some home runs too. He’s got that kind of ability, runs inside, runs outside, and has good vision. Again, good contact balance. He gets a lot of two, three, four extra yards after the first guy hits him, just because of his ability to play with a good pad level and play strong. Has good ball security, that’s another great thing about him is he takes good care of the football. As their entire team does, I mean they don’t fumble. All year you can barely find a fumble on film.”