Pats Preview: Pats @ Raiders In Mexico City
As the New England Patriots prepare for their unusual, Week 11 road game against the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, here are some pregame story lines to keep in mind:
Hola, Mexico- The game will take place in Mexico City, as the league continues its international game series. Sunday will mark the 30th regular season game played outside of America and the third played in Mexico City. The Pats will be participating in their third ever regular season, international game, having played in London in both 2009 and 2012. New England beat the Tampa bay Bucs 35-7 in 2009 and also beat the then St. Louis Rams 45-7 in 2012.
Spending The Week- Coming off of a 41-16 thrashing of the Broncos in Denver last week, the Pats decided to stay on the road and train at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs before heading to Mexico. That decision not only limited some potentially unnecessary travel back and forth, but also gave New England more practice time in the thin air and high altitude.
Keeping It Normal- Though the game, which counts as a road contest for the Pats and a home game for Oakland, is being played on a neutral site in another country, both teams will need to do their best to keep things normal in their preparation and in the early going of the game. With that in mind, it would appear that the Patriots, who seem to block out any kind of distraction better than most teams, seemingly have the advantage.
Takeaways- The Patriots have done a solid job, so far this season, of creating turnovers by their opponents and limiting turnovers of their own. In fact, they enter the game tied for sixth in the league with a +6 turnover differential, having taken the ball away from opponents 11 times and giving it away just five total times. On the flip side, the Raiders have created a league-low six turnovers and currently sit near the bottom of the league with a -7 differential. Typically, the team that wins the turnover battle goes on to win the game.
Thin On The Line- The Pats will enter the game even thinner along the offensive line than they were last week. Starting right tackle Marcus Cannon has, again, already been ruled out with an ankle injury, so backup LaAdrian Waddle, who played well in place of Cannon last week at Denver, will be asked to replicate his strong performance on Sunday. The team will also be without starting center David Andrews, however, after Andrews was added to the injury report with an illness late this week. That will likely force second year backup guard/center Ted Karras into duty on short notice. It will be interesting to see how the not-often-used Karras will respond to the unexpected start in high altitude. Having the extra week of practice in the thin air could prove to be a big help, come game time. It will, however, be a tall test for the Pats to enter the action with two starters unavailable along the line.
Continue Targeting The Backs- Expect the Pats to continue to find ways to get the ball into the hands of their talented group of running backs. Over the past three games the trio of Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead have totaled 531 yards from scrimmage on 96 total touches. That averages out to 32 touches a game for 177 yards. The three have proven to be tough for opponents to handle and have helped the Pats win all three games.
Prediction- The two teams both entered the season with high expectations, but only the Pats have lived up to that so far. Sunday should be more of the same, as Tom Brady and company should be able to have their way with the 26th ranked Oakland defense. Coming off a game in which they scored their most points of the season and seemed to get their red zone struggles out of the way in the second half, all signs point to the Pats cruising offensively. With the Raiders yet to get things going offensively and the New England defense getting better each week, the Pats should have just too much for the Raiders to handle. Add in the off field theatrics of playing gin mexico and the Pats should be in business.
Pats 44, Raiders 13