Streaking Patriots face inconsistent Raiders in Mexico City
By BARRY WILNER
Nov. 18, 2017
Hola, Los Patriots y Los Raiders. Bienvenido a Azteca.
The NFL's final international game this season features the back-on-target Patriots and the disappointing Raiders on Sunday.
It's the second straight year Oakland has given up a game in California to host one in Mexico City. In 2016, that worked out well as the Raiders, headed toward the playoffs, beat Houston 27-20.
This is a bigger challenge, particularly because New England (7-2) has won five straight and Oakland (4-5) has been far too inconsistent. The Raiders, losers of their past four meetings with the Patriots, are a mess on defense.
Oakland is the only team in NFL history with no interceptions on defense in its first nine games. The only team since at least 1940 to go 10 in a row without intercepting a pass was San Francisco in 1976-77.
The Raiders also are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 71.2 percent of passes and post a 110.5 passer rating; both would be third worst in NFL history.
And the opposing QB this time is merely a guy named Brady, in the midst of one of his finest seasons.
"It's pretty much vintage Tom Brady ," Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. "I think he's been as good as anybody doing it for quite a number of years.
"For the most part, he's really competitive. He's really prepared and you know you have your hands full anytime you're going up against him."
The Patriots stayed in Colorado after their win at Denver to acclimate to high altitude for the trip to Mexico City.
"You can feel it for sure," said tight end Rob Gronkowski, noting his skin was dry. "A lot of people are getting their nose super dry, their mouth super dry. So, I'm just glad to be here to prepare for what Mexico City will be, at the same altitude. So, it's good training and I'm glad we're doing it."
The action began Thursday night with Pittsburgh's 40-17 home victory over Tennessee.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns, three to Antonio Brown, to help Pittsburgh (8-2) win its fifth straight games. Tennessee dropped to 6-4.
Off in this final week of byes are Indianapolis (3-7), Carolina (7-3), San Francisco (1-9) and the New York Jets (4-6).
Philadelphia (8-1) at Dallas (5-4)
An Eagles victory would pretty much sew up the NFC East, giving Philly a four-game edge with six weeks remaining.
This is a difficult stretch for Dallas. It comes off a loss at 2016 NFC champion Atlanta, now faces the team with the league's best record, then has a quick turnaround for its traditional Thanksgiving Day game, against the Chargers. The Cowboys had little offense against the Falcons with star running back Ezekiel Elliott sitting out the first game of a six-game suspension, and star left tackle Tyron Smith injured, opening a direct path into the backfield for Atlanta.
Los Angeles Rams (7-2) at Minnesota (7-2)
Anyone out there foresee this as the Week 11 highlight matchup?
Didn't think so.
LA's improvement under first-year coach Sean McVay has been remarkable. A year ago at this point, the Rams were 4-5, but would lose the rest of their games. Now, they appear headed for the playoffs.
"They're really efficient at what they do," said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who could have been referring to all facets of LA's game, not just the offense. "They line up, they run a lot of the same plays. Different formations, same plays. They'll run them over and over and over and over. They're good at it. You get better at what you do."
Case Keenum comes off a spectacular performance and remains at quarterback despite the return of Teddy Bridgewater. Keenum was the starter for the Rams to begin last season and made 14 starts over the past two years.
Washington (4-5) at New Orleans (7-2)
No team has been more impressive in the past two months than the Saints. They're riding a seven-game winning streak in which — get this! — the defense has been as stellar as the offense.
As usual, Drew Brees has the passing game humming, and the contributions of the running back tandem of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara has made New Orleans even more dynamic with the ball. Without it, the Saints rank eighth overall on D and have found a pass rush that will trouble Kirk Cousins and the banged-up Redskins.
Washington is one franchise Saints coach Sean Payton has had little success in facing. He's 1-4 against the Redskins.
Atlanta (5-4) at Seattle (6-3), Monday night
Dan Quinn's defense is beginning to resemble, maybe only slightly but definitely, what his mentor, Pete Carroll, has put together in Seattle. Adrian Clayborne's six sacks against Dallas might have come against backup tackles, but it was the latest sign of an improved unit. Indeed, over most of this season, Atlanta's D has been more consistent.
The Seahawks' Legion of Boom has had the boom lowered on it with injuries to Richard Sherman (Achilles tendon), Earl Thomas (hamstring) and Kam Chancellor (neck). As odd as this may seem, the Seahawks could rely more on Russell Wilson and his offense down the stretch.
Kansas City (6-3) at New York Giants (1-8)
Watch out for 2016 All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce in this one. The Giants have given up a TD pass to an opposing TE in 10 straight regular-season games. Kelce has touchdown catches in three straight overall, leads NFL tight ends with 629 yards receiving and is second with 51 catches. He has a TD catch in his past three outings against the NFC East.
Also bear in mind that Andy Reid is an incredible 16-2 coming off a bye.
There is one bright spot for the Giants, whose 1-8 record is their worst since 1980, when they finished 4-12. QB Eli Manning will make his 209th consecutive start, passing brother Peyton for second all-time behind Brett Favre's 297.
Jacksonville (6-3) at Cleveland (0-9)
Former Browns DB Tashaun Gipson has heated up this one. Gipson, who played four seasons for Cleveland, had some nasty comments about Cleveland's front office. He even predicted a shutout win and that the Browns will go 0-16.
It could be a long day for Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. "Sacksonville" leads the league with 35 QB traps.
Look for the Jaguars to run aplenty with rookie Leonard Fournette. Yes, Cleveland has the fourth-ranked rush defense, but Jacksonville tops the NFL in rushing.
Detroit (5-4) at Chicago (3-6)
Detroit has dominated this matchup recently, winning seven of eight. This could be a bit of a trap game, though, because the Lions entertain the NFC North leaders, Minnesota, on Thanksgiving Day.
This one could come down to the running game. Detroit ranks 29th rushing the ball, but did manage 104 yards on 19 carries in a win over Cleveland. Yeah, we know, it was the Browns, but they have a decent run defense.
One thing the Bears can do well is run the ball with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. The Lions have struggled against the ground game since Haloti Ngata (elbow) went on IR.
Buffalo (5-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-6)
Maybe the Bills got spooked by the idea they are in playoff contention — their previous appearance was at the turn of the millennium — but they are going with rookie QB Nate Peterman and benching Tyrod Taylor.
"We are 5-4, I understand that," coach Sean McDermott says. "It is always and will be for the time that I'm here about becoming the best team we can possibly become. We are made for more than 5-4, and I've come here to be more than 5-4."
Whether in San Diego or LA, the Chargers have shown they know how to blow close games. Last week's collapse at Jacksonville gave them five losses by eight or fewer points.
Baltimore (4-5) at Green Bay (5-4)
So the Packers can win without Aaron Rodgers. They did so at Soldier Field last week, and now they get the offensively challenged Ravens.
Green Bay's defense came through against Chicago and might need to do so again. Brett Hundley got his first NFL victory, but his running game is in flux with rookie Aaron Jones (knee) out and Tim Montgomery (ribs) uncertain. The Packers might be down to third-stringer Jamaal Williams, another rookie.
Baltimore has the league's worst passing attack, but throwing against the Ravens can be dangerous: Baltimore leads the NFL with 13 interceptions.
Arizona (4-5) at Houston (3-6)
The Cardinals' year of injuries now forces Bruce Arians to start his third-string QB, Blaine Gabbert. Drew Stanton hurt his knee in a loss to Seattle, and starter Carson Palmer (broken arm) is out.
That probably means an even fuller load for Adrian Peterson, who already has been a workhorse in Arizona since coming over in a trade last month.
Houston will honor the best offensive player in franchise history, Andre Johnson, as the inaugural member of the Texans Ring of Honor. Johnson spent 12 seasons in Houston and is the team's all-time leader in yards receiving (13,597), receptions (1,012) and touchdown receptions (64). Had current QB Tom Savage been throwing to him, even the brilliant Johnson might have had mediocre numbers.
Tampa Bay (3-6) at Miami (4-5)
This game was rescheduled from Week 1 because of Hurricane Irma. That means each team is playing for 16 straight weeks.
Miami's offense has gone dormant. Miami has been outscored 112-45 while losing its past three games, and has been outscored by 87 points this season, fourth worst in the NFL. The Dolphins haven't even led at the start of the fourth quarter all season.
Now they face a Tampa Bay defense that found its pass rush in a win over the Jets last Sunday with six sacks. But the Bucs also have problems with the ball, scoring a total of 28 points in their past three matches.
Cincinnati (3-6) at Denver (3-6)
Cincinnati has lost 10 in a row at Denver. It even fell to past and returned QB Brock Osweiler in overtime two years ago during the Broncos' championship season.
Few teams have been more disappointing this season than the Broncos, whose defense has sprung leaks all over the place — in part because of the demands placed on it by an unreliable offense.
Yet it's less anemic than the 31st-ranked Bengals. At least Cincinnati is better in one department: minus-9 in turnovers to Denver's minus-14.