By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn These are not your JaMarcus Russell-era Oakland Raiders, folks.
While it's way too soon for Raiders Nation to start booking flights to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, there's no question that this is one of the better teams to come out of Oakland in a while.
For the New England Patriots, Sunday's game in Oakland will be the second in as many weeks against a team that's looking to make the transition from league doormat to being a more dominant force.
"There are problems all over the place that they present," said Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.
For O'Brien's crew, pass protection -- always a must -- takes on even greater importance against one of the league's best pass-rushing teams.Oakland already has 10 sacks this season, which ranks fourth in the NFL.
One of the keys to the Raiders defense is former Patriot Richard Seymour who has 10 tackles this season, including 2.5 sacks.
"These guys are really big up front," O'Brien said. "They're a physical defense. They're fast. That's part of our discussion right now, all the different areas of their defense."
The Patriots defense won't have it any easier on Sunday, not with Darren McFadden leading the league's best ground attack with an NFL-best 393 yards rushing this season.
With so many of today's elite teams in the NFL relying heavily on the passing attack to be successful, the Raiders seem to be from the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust era.
"They definitely like to run the ball," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "They got a good offensive line. They emphasize it a lot; you can see they're pretty good at it. Their backs are really special. They do enough in the passing game to make you worry about that, too. It's not just one thing. It'll be a big challenge for us."