New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady practices at Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The Patriots are practicing at Air Force to get acclimated to playing at a higher elevation for Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City. (Doug Brownlie/The Gazette via AP)
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND — For the second straight year, the Raiders will travel to Mexico City for a “home” game at Estadio Azteca. Last year, the Silver and Black came away with a 27-20 victory over the “visiting” Houston Texans before worldwide audience on Monday Night Football.
This season, Oakland will face a much tougher opponent when they “host” the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots Sunday in a pivotal Week 11 matchup for both teams in the AFC.
Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT.
Oakland (4-5) is coming off a much needed bye week after dispatching the Dolphins 27-24 in Miami in Week 9. Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr played efficiently, passing for 300 yards on 21-of-30 completions with one touchdown and one interception for a quarterback rating of 99.3. For the season, Carr has thrown for 1,954 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a quarterback rating of 91.8.
Offensively, the Raiders rank 22nd overall, but rank 16th in the NFL in points per game (21.6) after ranking in the top-10 last season scoring nearly 28 points per game through 16 games.
Starting running back Marshawn Lynch returned from a one-game suspension to run for 57 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns on the night. The two rushing touchdowns by Lynch were the first scores for Lynch away from home this season.
Tight end Jared Cook had a big night, leading all receivers with eight catches for 127 yards. Wide receiver Johnny Holton scored his second touchdown of the season on the game’s biggest play for the Raiders when Holton reeled in a 44-yard touchdown throw from Carr in the first half. Holton has just two catches this season, both of which have gone for touchdowns of 44 and 64 yards.
Defensively, middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the Raiders in tackles for the third straight game with 10. Dating back to his final game with the San Francisco 49ers against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5, Bowman has recorded 10-plus tackles in four straight games this season.
Through nine games this season, the Raiders still have yet to record an interception, which is a very dubious record in the NFL for one team to own especially for the Raiders, who will face a quarterback that has only thrown just two interceptions this season in Tom Brady.
Following a 2-2 start to the season, New England (7-2) has won five straight games and are rounding into form at the right time.
The 40-year-old Brady enters Week 11 leading the NFL in passing yards (2,807), tied with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for the most touchdown passes (19) and second behind Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in quarterback rating (113.9 to 108.3) this season.
Brady completed 25-of-34 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in New England’s 41-16 smashing victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football in Week 10. The five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback leads a Patriots offense that is No. 1 in total yards per game (409.6) and fourth in points per game (28.6) this season.
That’s not good news for a Raiders defense that rank 26th in total defense surrendering 361.1 total yards per game to opposing teams this season. Oakland is allowing 23.8 points per game.
Wide receiver Brandon Cooks led New England with six receptions and was tied with tight end Rob Gronkowski for the most receiving yards on the team with 74 against the Broncos.
Starting running back Dion Lewis left his imprint on the game, leading the Patriots with 14 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown but it was his play on special teams that gave New England the upper hand against Denver.
After Denver kicker Brandon McManus made a 39-yard field goal that made the score 7-3 in the first quarter, Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown that gave the Patriots a 14-3 lead before the Broncos blinked. Lewis, along with fellow running back James White and fullback Rex Burkhead are Brady’s security blanket when guys like Gronkowski and wide receiver Brandon Cooks are covered.
White leads the team in receptions (46), Cooks in receiving yards (637) and Gronkowski and wide receiver Chris Hogan in receiving touchdowns (5), making the Patriots’ offense a multi-dimensional unit, engineered by Brady.
Defensively, the Patriots will give up a ton of yards per game (408.3) but teams are scoring just 21.7 points per game. Safety Devin McCourty leads the team with 58 tackles (50 solo), while cornerback Malcolm Butler has two of the team’s seven interceptions this season.
Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive end Trey Flowers lead New England with 3.5 sacks each. Flowers is second on the team with 55 tackles (46 solo).
Following Sunday’s game, Oakland will return to the Coliseum to take on the Broncos, while New England will host the Dolphins in Week 12.