On Sunday afternoon of Week 11, the New England Patriots play the Oakland Raiders in a matchup in the AFC. The Patriots are vying for a bye in the first round of the playoffs, as well as another AFC East division title. The Raiders, on the other hand, are battling with a slew of contenders for a wildcard spot. This game is of vital importance. Oh yeah, it’s also being played in Mexico.
The NFL has ventured outside the United States for a decade now, though mostly traveling to England for its games. The international series, as it’s known, began in 2007 with a game in London between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins. It wasn’t until last year that the series broadened its horizons and moved into Mexico as well.
The Mexico game in 2016, played in Estadio Azteca, was a battle between the Raiders and the Houston Texans. Since it is the only NFL game played in Mexico before this Sunday, the Raiders hold many peerless/pointless NFL Mexican records: most wins ever in Mexico, best record ever, largest point differential. All those records will be on the line this week against New England!
The Patriots, meanwhile, are experiencing this atmosphere for the first time. While the gambling lines (NE -7) seem to indicate that this is being played at a true neutral site, Oakland may have a slight advantage. The Raiders are versed in Estadio Azteca like no other team in the league. For one thing, this stadium is 7,382 feet above sea level, higher than any stadium in the USA. The altitude could be a factor, though obviously Oakland players won’t have held onto any inherent advantage from 12 months ago. In fact, with the Patriots coming off a game in Denver, they could be the better adjusted team here.
The altitude probably won’t make a difference in either direction. The Patriots are the better club. They are even getting their act together on the defensive side of the ball, the area of their team that was cratering their early season performance. NE is still really bad on that side of the ball overall, but only because the first month was so awful for it. Over the past six weeks, this squad is giving up just 13.4 points per game and hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in any contest. That is scary news for opponents.
For Oakland, this Mexico trip needs to end well. The Raiders have failed terribly to live up to preseason Super Bowl expectations. They lose a home game here but are coming off a bye week and do have that Mexican game experience that no one else can match. We’ll see if the Black Hole has passports. A loss here could essentially mean the end of Oakland’s season.
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