Randy Moss' Return to Oakland May Be X Factor In Pats' Playoff Push

Ryan BurnsAnalyst IDecember 14, 2008

By now, we all know the story.

Randy Moss was shipped to Oakland after falling out of favor with the Minnesota Vikings, joining a team that is known for its affinity for troublemakers, me-first individualists, and malcontents.  NFL pundits were wary of this move, and they were proven right, as Randy was forced to play with terrible quarterbacks and a terrible offensive line.

Rumors started to surface that Randy may be done, that his days of being a team's most dangerous option may have gone the way of the Raiders' franchise, down and out.

However, when Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots came calling following the 2006 season, things started to change for Mr. "Straight Cash, Homey."  Randy was traded to the Patriots, and had one year remaining on his contract, essentially a risk-free move by New England, made with the idea of jump-starting their offense.

It sure worked.  Randy and Quarterback of the Decade Tom Brady had the best season statistics-wise of their respective careers, as Brady set the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season, and Moss setting the record for most touchdown receptions in a season. 

Today, Moss and the Patriots are in the "Black Hole" ready to face the lethargic Raiders, a once proud franchise now reduced to NFL also-rans.  The Raiders' season is essentially over, and the Brady-less Patriots are once again in the thick of a tough AFC playoff race.  The Patriots can not afford to lose any of their remaining three games, and they also need help from other teams in the AFC if they want to make the playoffs.

Surely, Moss won't receive a hero's welcome this afternoon, but he can play the hero for the Patriots in this game.  Moss' numbers have decreased dramatically this year in Brady's absence and although the decrease was inevitable, Pats' fans would like to see him have better numbers. 

Sparingly targeted through the first few games of the season, Moss didn't let his frustration show itself on the field or in the media, something that another 81 is known for.  Randy realized that Matt Cassel had to get comfortable in the offense and that in due time, his touches would increase.

Today is the perfect time for Randy to reintroduce himself to the Raiders, and the NFL for that matter.  The Raiders currently allow 158.7 yard on the ground per game, 30th in the NFL.  The Raiders are a bit better in the passing game, allowing 193 yards per game through the air.

These numbers suggest that the Patriots will try to establish the run early in order to set up the pass, but considering Cassel's rough week and the playoff push, I expect Josh McDaniels to craft an aggressive gameplan, one that will control the clock, while moving the ball in chunks. 

The Raiders will focus on stopping the slot man, Wes Welker, who is on pace to break his own career high in receptions, which may give Moss some room downfield. 

The Patriots should win this game, but they should not overlook the Raiders, and must treat this contest as a playoff game, because if they lose, their season may be over.