The Patriots high-in-the-sky two-game road trip continues this weekend, as New England goes from last week’s game against the Broncos at 5000 feet above sea level, to a week of practice in Colorado Springs at 6000 feet above sea level and now on to Mexico City, which is 7000 feet above sea level to face the Raiders.
Before the season this looked like a potential AFC Championship preview, but the Raiders haven’t quite lived up to expectations, losing five of their last seven. The Pats and Raiders are similar teams in that their offenses are good (NE 1st DVOA, OAK 3rd DVOA) and their defenses have been at the other end of the spectrum (NE 30th DVOA, OAK 32nd DVOA). Usually all those things kind of cancel out and what we’re left with is: Tom Brady vs. the 32nd-ranked pass defense in the NFL.
But it isn’t exactly a slam dunk. Oakland is better than their record indicates and have shown good resiliency. Nowhere was that more apparent than against the Chiefs when the Raiders had a miraculous last drive that featured two chances at the end zone with time expired. With the game coming at significant elevation, and with unknown field conditions, there are some x-factors that could play into things.
Simply put, the Patriots cannot afford to let the Raiders hang around in this one, because they can sling it when their backs are against the wall. The young Oakland team will see this game as a huge opportunity for them to make their presence in the AFC and NFL felt after a poor start. If it was in Oakland I’d like the Raiders’ chances more, but an experienced New England team, that has been practicing close to altitude all week should be extremely well-prepared and focused on this game.
What the Pats need to do to get that eighth win of the season and finally descend from the clouds back home in the gameplan.