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Pick Six: Will Khalil Mack Make Life Difficult For Tom Brady And The Patriots?

Posted Nov 17, 2017

Here are six things to keep an eye on this weekend as the Raiders travel to Mexico City for a Week 11 clash with the New England Patriots.

It’s not every day you play a “home” game outside the United States, but Sunday will be that day for the Oakland Raiders, as they play host to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

The trip to Mexico will be the Silver and Black’s second in as many years, and if all goes to plan, they’ll fly back to the Bay Area with a win in the overhead compartment, replicating the success they found last year against the Houston Texans.

Even though the Raiders are currently a game under .500, they’re still in the thick of things in the AFC playoff picture, making Sunday’s game at Estadio Azteca all the more important.

Prior to kickoff, here are six things you need to keep an eye when the Raiders take on the Pats.

1. Can the defense find a way to limit Tom Brady?

You like points?

Who am I kidding, we all like points, and if we can trust the numbers, there’s a chance there will be plenty of points scored Sunday afternoon at Estadio Azteca.

The Patriots offense – statistically the best in the NFL – is led by Tom Brady, who is in the midst of yet another outstanding campaign, and if the Silver and Black want to limit the amount of points New England scores, it all begins and ends with No. 12.

The Raiders are going to have to find a way to make Brady uncomfortable, getting him off his spot in the pocket, and hopefully forcing a few errant throws in the process.

2. Since we’re on the subject of errant throws…

Once again, we have to ask; is this going to be the week the Raiders defense secures its first interception of 2017?

In what has now become a bit of a statistical anomaly, the Silver and Black are the only team left in the NFL without an interception in 2017. To be fair, they’re only two picks behind the Atlanta Falcons, just to keep everything in context, but it is pretty incredible that entering Week 11, the group has yet to notch an interception.

If this is indeed the week the proverbial monkey gets off the back of the defense in that regard, they’re certainly going to have to earn it; Tom Brady has thrown just two interceptions compared to 19 touchdowns, and he’s made a career of being careful with the football.

Winning the turnover battle is always paramount, let’s see if the Raiders secondary can do a little bit to make sure that happens Sunday afternoon.

3. Will the offensive line keep thriving?

Very quietly, the Raiders offensive line is putting together a pretty nice stretch of football as of late.

Over the past three games, they’ve surrendered just a single sack, and the last time the team was on the field, Mike Tice’s group helped spring Marshawn Lynch for his first, two-touchdown performance in Silver and Black.

Since Head Coach Jack Del Rio took over the helm of the Raiders, the group has prided itself on being strong in the trenches, and the play of the big fellas up front is evidence of just that.

The Patriots have taken down the quarterback 22 times in 2017, so keeping their pass rushers at bay will be a challenge, but giving Derek Carr time to operate from the pocket typically spells good things for the Silver and Black.

4. Is it time for a “Mack Attack?”

Even though he hasn’t brought down the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage since the Raiders Week 7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, Khalil Mack is one of the few players in the NFL who can singlehandedly take over a game, seemingly at the drop of a hat.

Through nine games, the All-Everything defensive end has just 4.5 sacks, but if history is any indication, No. 52 can flip the switch in an instant, and explode for a big time performance in an instant.

Tom Brady is the epitome of a pocket passer, and numerous players on the defensive front have said this week that getting him off his spot is vital to finding success against the Patriots.

Mack has excelled at doing just that his entire career; I’m excited to see if he can do it against one of the best of all time this Sunday.

5. Keep an eye on the tight ends

Rob Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in the NFL – I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know – but the Raiders have a pretty good one themselves in Jared Cook.

Not only does Cook lead the Silver and Black in receiving yardage (499), his 39 receptions are also tops on the team as well.

Both the Patriots and Raiders offenses are filled – top to bottom – with playmakers, but there’s an argument to be made that the respective tight ends on the team provide the biggest matchup problem for opposing defenses.

I expect to hear Gronkowski and Cook’s respective names called a lot at Estadio Azteca, we’ll just have to wait and see who has the bigger impact on the game.

6. Who wins the fourth quarter?

The fourth quarter is arguably the most important quarter regardless of the game, but playing at an elevation of 7,382 feet above sea level, I have a feeling that the fourth quarter will be even more critical than usual this Sunday.

As the game goes into its final frame, players are going to be tired, and the team’s respective conditioning levels will be pushed to the limit.

Which team deals with the conditions better? Time will tell, but keep a close eye on that final 15 minutes at Estadio Azteca, for multiple reasons.