Before the 2017 NFL season began, the Week 11 matchup between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders looked like it might be a preview of the AFC Championship Game. That no longer appears to be the case, and a loss for the Raiders would put them one step closer towards missing the playoffs.

Oakland finds itself as a 6.5-point home underdog, per the betting odds at OddsShark, after starting the season at 4-5. The Raiders are trying to win two straight games for the first time since Week 2, and they’ll try to do so against a team that hasn’t been defeated since Week 4.

While the Raiders have fallen short of expectations, the Patriots are right where they’re supposed to be. Two losses in the first four games have proved to be nothing more than a small misstep on their way toward what will probably end up being the AFC’s best record. New England’s seven wins tie them for the most in the conference, and they remain the favorite to win Super Bowl LII.

New England’s struggles stemmed from a defense that was the worst in the league, allowing 33 points or more three times in the first quarter of the season. As Bill Belichick’s defenses usually do, the unit has significantly improved, looking much more like the team that allowed the fewest points in 2016.

The Patriots have held five straight opponents to 17 points or fewer. That includes three games on the road, highlighted by last week’s 41-16 victory in Denver.  

None of New England’s recent wins have come against impressive offenses. Even the Atlanta Falcons, who the Patriots held to seven points, rank just 15th in scoring. The Patriots haven’t been tested by an elite offense since September, and that won’t change with Sunday’s game in Oakland.

The Raiders’ offense has been one of the league’s biggest disappointments. It starts with quarterback Derek Carr--he’s dealt with a back injury--and continues with wide receiver Amari Cooper and running back Marshawn Lynch. Those big names have only amounted to the No.16 scoring offense while facing mostly pedestrian defenses.

Oakland is coming off a 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins, who are 25th in points allowed. Their 31-30 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7 came against a defense that ranks 19th in points allowed.

In two games against scoring defenses that rank in the top 15, the Raiders have scored 17--Derek Carr didn’t play with an injury--and 14 points, respectively. That kind of performance won’t cut it against New England, who moves the ball as well as anyone.

The Patriots rank first in total offense with more than 409 yards per game, and no AFC team has scored more points. Tom Brady is still the NFL’s best quarterback, leading the NFL in yards with the second-best passer rating. He has 19 touchdown passes and two interceptions, and the five-time champion hasn’t posted a passer rating of lower than 94.1 since struggling in the season opener.

With an over/under of 52 points, there could be a lot of scoring in Sunday’s contest. Oakland probably doesn’t have what it takes to keep pace with the AFC’s best team.

Prediction: New England over Oakland, 34-20