FOXBOROUGH — There are very few sure things in the NFL, but Sunday was one of those for the Patriots. The Raiders were a perfect Patriots opponent.
A young team from out west coming off a short week and an emotional win that they were told signaled that they "had arrived."
A coach and playcaller in Jon Gruden steeped in the West Coast Offense — meaning that even if his star running back, Josh Jacobs, is averaging 6.0 yards per carry in the first half and looks unstoppable behind a line that was shoving the Patriots all over the place, Gruden will still drop back to pass with impunity because WCO truthers believe some of those passes are the same as runs.
And then mix in a quarterback like Derek Carr whose game never looks better than on the stat sheet because he's never passed up a checkdown for a tight down-field throw, can get fooled by coverages, and has poor pocket awareness and ball control (two fumbles).
Officially (meaning, in my own mind) the Patriots remain undefeated at Gillette Stadium in these circumstances, after their 36-20 victory over the Raiders on Sunday.
So Sunday was pretty predictable (I had 35-17 ... sorry about those two points on the differential). But it did give us another valuable game worth of data to start to formulate some more concrete answers about this team. And with the Patriots set to play the Chiefs (Sunday, 4:25 p.m.), 49ers, Bills and Ravens within the next six games, it's a good time to start breaking these Patriots down.
The preseason is over.
Let's look at what we know, and don't know about this team — with an admission that things can and will change as the season moves along (remember the Monday Night Massacre at KC in 2014?) — as they head into the gauntlet.
• We know ... the Patriots' best path to victory is very clear.