Instant Debate

Raiders have a chance to make huge statement vs. Patriots

There are three matchups this weekend that easily can be previews of what we'll see in the AFC playoffs next January -- Patriots at Raiders, Jets at Ravens, Steelers at Texans. Which of these games are you most looking forward to and why?

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  • Jason La Canfora NFL Network
  • Steelers-Texans a contrast in style

Really? You guys are making me choose? This is like making me choose my favorite child, or my favorite episode of the Rich Eisen Podcast, or my favorite suit Deion Sanders rocks on Sunday nights.

It's simply not fair.

And the best thing about it? I don't have to choose! The good people at the NFL scheduling department spread 'em out! One at 1 p.m. ET, one at 4 and one Sunday night!

But if you make me choose, I'll take Pittsburgh-Houston. Two different styles, and the first true test for the Steelers' defense since the Ravens gashed them in Week 1. Can the Steelers run the ball? Can the Texans bounce back after giving one away to the Saints?

Arian Foster is probably back for this one. I'm intrigued and pretty torn as to which team I believe will win.

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  • Steve
  • Red-hot Raiders will test Patriots

Definitely Patriots-Raiders. I think Pittsburgh is going to have a hard time against Houston -- the Texans' defensive front will be all over Ben Roethlisberger -- and Jets-Ravens is a fairly common matchup where we know what to expect. The Pats at Raiders? This is intriguing because the new-look Raiders appear to be for real and, if they are, they move to 3-1 and the Patriots fall to 2-2. Now, New England is money after losses but they have to travel across the country against a team that is incredibly physical, has big-play threats galore and is playing with some serious swagger (I know the term is getting played out, but it is appropriate here).

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  • Pat Kirwan
  • Jets-Ravens could actually be an aerial attack

The game I'm most interested in is Jets-Ravens. The storyline surrounding Rex Ryan and his days in Baltimore never get old. The most interesting aspect of the game is the newfound deep speed on the Ravens' roster with Torrey Smith, who scored three touchdowns on the first three balls he ever caught. Lee Evans, if healthy, adds even more speed. Joe Flacco has a very good deep ball and I can't wait to see him test Darrelle Revis. The Jets have not been running the ball well and that means more Mark Sanchez passing, which means more Ravens pass rush. If the Jets lose (and I think they will), questions about their status as contenders will be on the table.

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  • Bucky Brooks
  • Patriots and Raiders can both make a strong statement

The most compelling matchup is Oakland-New England. The Raiders are coming off an eye-opening win against the Jets, and they look like a potential playoff contender. How well they fare against the team many consider to be the standard-bearer in the AFC will give us an indication of where they stack among the competition in the conference.

For the Patriots, this matchup will reveal their ability to handle a physical team. They have enjoyed success against some rugged squads like Pittsburgh, but others like Baltimore and the Jets have given them problems in recent years. With the Raiders built in a similar fashion, we will discover a lot about how well the Patriots also stand.

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  • Dave Dameshek
  • Patriots should handle Raiders, but what do I know?

It says here the Ravens will dump the Jets, who -- thanks to their QB -- are a tad overrated. The Texans will bounce back against the Steelers, who -- thanks to their inability to shut down the run -- find themselves in unchartered and rough waters this season. That leaves Raiders at Patriots. I fully expect Brady and Co. to whip Oakland ... but I also expected New England to whip Buffalo last week. If I'm wrong this time, the AFC officially will be up for grabs. Well, unless I'm right about my above pick of the Ravens. In that case, Baltimore would become the team to beat in the conference. Unless I'm wrong about the Steelers losing in Houston. Or maybe the Dolphins will win 13 straight and surprise us all ... including Chad Henne.

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