Hola, La Ciudad de México.
For the second time in as many years, the Oakland Raiders are headed abroad for a "home" game, this time, a Week 11 matchup with the New England Patriots.
Headed into the pivotal AFC Clash, you had questions; now, we have answers. Here is this week's edition of the Raiders.com Mailbag.
From Bo P: Tom Brady is having another dominant year, how will the Raiders stop him?
EP:Bo, you are indeed correct in saying that Tom Brady is having another outstanding year for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Brady has thrown 19 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions, and his 2,807 passing yards are more than any other quarterback in the league this year. Come Sunday, it's not so much about shutting down Brady, as it is containing him. So, how do the Raiders go about doing just that? Well, I think it's all going to start with getting pressure on No. 12. The former Michigan Wolverine is the definition of a pocket passer, and if the Raiders want to make life difficult for him, they're going to have to force him from his spot in the pocket. To get this done, Khalil Mack and Co., will have to be active all afternoon, and while Brady is inarguably one of the best quarterbacks of all time, he's certainly less potent when he's forced to leave his comfort zone. Getting pressure is always a little easier said than done, but Ken Norton, Jr.'s group would be well served to provide a little heat to Brady at Estadio Azteca.
From Vito D: Marshawn Lynch got rolling against the Dolphins last time the Raiders played. Do you think we'll get another heavy dose of "Beast Mode" against the Patriots?!?
EP:Only Head Coach Jack Del Rio and his staff know the exact answer to this question, but if I were to posit a guess, I would think we'd see our fair share of No. 24 against the Patriots. New England ranks just 26th in the NFL at stopping the run, and with players like Lynch, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington, on paper, there should be some opportunities to get the ground game rolling. That being said, Head Coach Del Rio continually preaches the importance of balance, and evidence has shown us time and again that the Raiders are at their best, their most dynamic, when there's a good balance between the run and the pass. Now, both the Raiders and Patriots like to score points – and both teams are pretty good at it too – so I don't really foresee a low scoring, 9-6 affair, but if Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing has the chance to pound the rock with Lynch, I fully expect him to do so.
From @ZaSherOuran: Which game did you enjoy the most even if you won or lost?
EP:A question kind of out of left field, but a tremendous question nevertheless. When I think back on it, two games immediately come to mind. The first one is the win over the Chargers last year in San Diego. Not only was it the final time the Silver and Black took on the "San Diego" Chargers, but simply put, Raider Nation completely took over Qualcomm Stadium. I mean, seriously, it looked like a home game. Raider Nation was so loud and proud that beautiful Sunday afternoon that there were deafening boos for Philip Rivers and the home Chargers when they were introduced. Also, with the convincing win, the Raiders clinched their first playoff berth since 2002, so that was an awesome moment to see. The other game is Charles Woodson's final game, at home, as a Raider. The Silver and Black beat the Bolts – making it a great enough night already – but hearing C. Wood address the crowd after the game was one of the coolest sports moments I've ever witnessed. His words stand up to the test of time too… "I will never leave you, Go Raiders."
From Joaquin G: We need Khalil Mack and the defensive line to step up big in Mexico City. Will Khalil get another sack?
EP:Joaquin, I love how you phrased that question, saying that Khalil Mack *and *the rest of the defensive line need to put their best foot forward Sunday afternoon at Estadio Azteca. No. 52 is no question one of the best defensive players in the NFL, but I think that oftentimes we expect him to be the only one getting after the quarterback. Yes, Khalil is a dominant player; he's an All-Pro year after year for a reason, but everybody needs a little help, especially considering the former Buffalo Bull is routinely double, and even triple teamed, at times throughout the game. Lucky for the Raiders, they also employ another dynamic edge rusher in Bruce Irvin, who like Mack, has made a living taking down the opposing quarterback. If the Silver and Black want to find success against Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, not only will Mack and Irvin have to get gassed up, but a little interior pressure up front from the big fellas would go a long way as well.
From Tim F: Will the elevation play any role in the game?
EP:Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that Mexico City is indeed over 7,200 feet above sea level, meaning that the air is thinner, and physical activity can be a little bit harder. Kickoffs will likely fly a little longer, and both team's kickers will probably gain a few yards on how far they feel comfortable attempting field goals too. That being said, both teams have to deal with the variables that come with playing in elevation. The Patriots elected to train in Denver all week in an attempt to acclimate to the elevation, while the Raiders flew in the day before the game, just like they did in last year's international clash with the Houston Texans. I've talked a few players this week about whether or not they can feel a difference playing that high above sea level, and they've all said yes, but like I said earlier, both teams have to deal with the conditions.
From John G: Did you go to the Mexico City game last year? If you did, what was the best part?
EP:I did indeed go to the Mexico City game last year, and as far as the best part goes, it has to be flying back with a win. There's nothing better than winning. I'll say this though, the atmosphere at Estadio Azteca was outstanding. It's such a historic, large venue that the game felt like it was a playoff game, not just a game in the regular season. The fans were great too; their passion for the game, and their excitement to watch some American football was really, really neat, and I fully anticipate Sunday's game being just the same.