New England Patriots (7-2 SU, 5-4 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (4-5 SU, 3-5-1 ATS)
NFL Week 11
Date/Time: Sunday November 19th 4:25 PM EST
Where: Estadio Azteca, Mexico City
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NE -6.5 / OAK +6.5
Over/Under Total: 52
The Patriots and Raiders head south of the border for a Sunday afternoon showdown in Mexico City as they were the two teams to draw the short straw and get stuck playing out of the country in a stadium ill equipped for a football game in a city still trying to dig itself out from the deadly earthquake they suffered back in September. New England has had the clear upper hand against Oakland since Tom Brady took over for them at the quarterback position, leading his team to a 5-1 record in his six games played against the Raiders, starting with the infamous Tuck Rule game back in 2002. Many Oakland former players and fans still havent let go off that loss, while many Patriots fans continue to look at the game as comeuppance karma for the phantom roughing the passer call suffered 25 years previous against the Raiders in the 1976 divisional playoff round that cost New England the game and eventually resulted in a victory for Al Davis crew in Super Bowl XI.
Oakland enters the game coming off of their bye week, which hopefully for Raiders fans gave the teams offense time to work on some of the issues that have plagued them throughout the season. This is especially important considering the success of their offense has so far equaled success for the team, as they have scored 26 points or more in all of their wins but have put up 17 or less in all five of their losses. One issue in particular that has caused issues throughout the season is the dropped passes amongst the receiving corps, with the team currently second in the league in drops with 18 through their first nine games. Former star receiver Amari Cooper has been the guiltiest party with five drops on the season (tied for the league lead), while Michael Crabtree and Jared Cook have each contributed three apiece.
Dropped passes are unfortunately not the only problem affecting Amari Cooper, who has seen his production fall off considerably after a prolific start to his NFL career. On the season the former Alabama standout has 38 catches for 462 yards and 3 touchdowns, and while that may look somewhat tolerable, a majority of those stats came in one game when he had 210 yards receiving and two touchdowns against the Chiefs in week seven, and Cooper now currently sits on the unfortunate trend of having scored in just two of his last fourteen games. He is not the only Raider receiving threat to be experiencing a drought in production, as tight end Jared Cook has scored in only one of his last fifteen games and receiver Michael Crabtree has just 13 receptions over his past three games after catching at least six passes per in four of his first five games.
Unfortunately for Raider fans their offense has more problems than just dropped passes, as their rushing attack ranks just 27th in the league and Marshawn Lynch has not lived up to expectations with just a 3.8 yards per carry average and having yet to surpass 76 yards in a game all season. Quarterback David Carr has also not played up to par, throwing for seven interceptions compared to thirteen touchdowns after posting extremely efficient TD-INT ratios of 28/6 in 2016 and 32/13 in 2015. The team as a whole has simply not been the same since Carr went down with an injury in week 16 of last season, posting just a 4-7 record since and clearly unable to recapture the offensive magic and momentum that catapulted them up the NFL rankings last season. And while the offense may be missing some of their mojo their defense has been ever worse, currently ranking 26th in the league in yards allowed, 22nd against the pass, 31st in sacks and 28th in turnover margin thanks in large part to their grand total of zero interceptions through the first nine games of the season. With the defense struggling, especially amongst their backfield, they will hope star defensive end Khalil Mack can keep the pressure on Tom Brady as much as possible throughout the game or they will be in serious risk of having the Patriots signal caller pick them apart and light up the Estadio Azteca scoreboard.
Brady and the Patriots are coming off of 41-16 dismantling of Denver on Sunday night, a game in which they dominated every facet of play and at one point scored on seven straight possessions. The win was New Englands twelfth straight road victory and their fifth in a row overall, and now find themselves tied with Pittsburgh at 7-2 for the best record in AFC. Both the Steelers and Patriots are expected to be favored in their remaining games, which means when their meeting on December 15th at Hines Field could very well be the decider as to who claims home field advantage during the playoffs.
One under the radar area that the Patriots have vastly improved on is their defense, which was rightfully maligned to start the season, and because of their poor performance in the first month still rank at 32nd in yards allowed and against the pass, 26th against the run and 24th in scoring. Despite losing star linebacker Donta Hightower a month ago their numbers have gotten increasingly better and after letting up 131 points in their first four games they have limited teams to a total of 67 over their past five matches and have not allowed anyone over 17 points in a game since October 1st when they lost at home to Carolina 33-30.
There is another statistic that should be kept in mind when watching the Patriots on TV, especially considering how much announcers love to (incorrectly) bring it up nearly as many times as they like to inform you that Chris Hogan once played lacrosse or Brady was drafted late in the sixth round. Their supposed factoid revolves around how much and how often the Patriots love to score at the end of the first half and then again on their first possession of the second half, which is for one thing kinda dumb as every team in the NFL would love to follow that path, but more importantly it is simply not remotely close to being true as this has happened just ONE TIME in their past seventeen games. I am not sure how any major company could consistently have their employees spout incorrect facts on a near weekly basis, unless of course its ESPN and their hackneyed joke of a pregame show in Sunday NFL Countdown.
While Oakland may have the advantage with having an extra week to prepare for New England, I still cannot see them keeping pace with Brady and the Patriots on Sunday considering how much difficulty the Raider offense has had this season with consistency and how porous their defense has been against lesser competition. With the second half of the season underway and the importance of every game elevated due to the playoff race, I will be backing the team that still has something to play for and going with the Patriots to get the win and cover in Mexico City against the Raiders.
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