Tom Brady and the Patriots will play in Mexico City. Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
This week, International NFL takes us to Mexico City for an AFC showdown between the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. The Raiders are coming off a bye and are focused as they desperately need a win, currently with a record of 4-5, while division leader Kansas City is pulling away at 6-3. The Patriots come in at 7-2 and need this game for different reasons. Sitting at 7-2, they share the AFC's best record with the Steelers. So New England will be looking to stay neck and neck with Pittsburgh, leaving the showdown Dec. 12 at Heinze field, to be the deciding factor in case of a tiebreaker. Motivation will be present for both teams, but preparation this week is the key, and we will look to capitalize on it.
Dating back to last year, The Patriots have now won 13 straight road games. They were 8-0 last year away from Foxboro and are off to a perfect start in 2017. After last week's win, New England opted to stay in Colorado. A few weeks back we spoke about preparing for an international game, and different approaches teams take with travel. The Rams chose to stay in Florida before heading overseas while Arizona decided to fly out early. The result, a blowout by the Rams 33-0 in London in week 7. The last time the Patriots stayed on the road for over a week was 2014. With New England opting to stay in Colorado, they benefit in two ways. “ I think those trips are great,” said retired defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who was part of the 2014 team. “It just helps a team come together. With the age differences between older and younger guys on a team, a week away in a hotel creates an environment where everyone is together. In a regular work week at home, older guys with families do their job and then get home to the kids. On away trips like that, everyone hangs out together.” The Patriots trained at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Team unity and a chance to bond is critical for a team to trust in each other. But the other factor that stands out here is the chance for the Patriots to practice at high altitude all week, Mexico City has an altitude of 7,503 feet. The Air Force Academy, where they will train, is located 7,258 feet above sea level. Look for the Patriots to play at a faster pace than usual, to keep the Oakland defense gassed.
The Raiders are coming off a much-needed bye week, and have the advantage of this being their second consecutive year to play in Mexico City. The only difference is with a losing record; pressure plays a factor. With an extra week off to hear the media, Oakland's General Manager, Reggie McKenzie heard some of the critics. “I'm not going to sit here and evaluate coordinators with you guys,” McKenzie told local media during the Raiders bye week last Friday. “But it's obvious we need to get better offensively and score some points and move the football and help the defense out. And vice versa, the defense has to get the ball back for our offense. We have to continue to work together in every facet of our game, starting versus New England.”
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio is not exactly thrilled with heading back to Mexico, calling it a “competitive disadvantage, one that we have faced the last couple of years and will face the next few years.”
Those aren't the words of a calm front office. "EVERY" facet, shows a sign of being desperate for results. Let's see how the two entirely contrasting atmospheres in the locker rooms, relate to the on-field performances.
Most bet teams:
Play action or Pass is now 13-13-2 on the year.
Last week we talked about the key numbers when betting the NFL, this week we have opportunities to play teasers crossing the very important 3 and 7 numbers, giving you a better chance to cash your tickets.
As I mentioned earlier, I think the Patriots method of preparing for this game by staying at high altitudes will be a huge factor. This is a classic match-up of strength vs. weakness as the Raiders defense allows opposing quarterbacks to complete 71% of passes and an average of a 118.3 Passer rating. During the 13 road game winning streak, the Patriots are 11-2 ATS. Raiders 1-5-1 ATS last seven this year and Jack Del Rio is also 1-5-1 ATS last seven away from home. Look for the Patriots to tally at least 30 points in this matchup.
Philadelphia Team Total over 26.5
The Eagles have surpassed the 26.5 point mark in 7 out of 9 games this year, and five out of the last six have been 26 or over. They are second in the league in points per game with 31.4 this year. The visitors in this series are 8-3 both straight up and against the spread over the last 11 meetings. With the line moving all the way up to 4.5, we look for another angle to shoot. The total has gone over in six of the Eagles' last eight games. Philidelphia will have its way on offense, and the defense will do their part causing havoc on the Cowboys quarterback with the depleted Dallas Offensive line.
Texans/ Cardinals under 43.5
Saints Team Total over 29.5
Patriots Team Total over 30
Tampa Bay/Miami Over 41
Teasers 7 points (Crossing the key numbers 3/7 as much as possible):
Patriots Pk/ Saints -1 (2X)
Patriots Pk/ Saints-1
Patriots Pk/ Chiefs -3.5
Saints-1-/ Chiefs -3.5
Minnesota is quietly 7-2 straight up and 6-3 ATS. No opponent has scored over 19 points at U.S. Bank Stadium this year; overall, the Vikings defense ranks 5th in points allowed (18.3) in 2017. The Rams, own the league's 31st rated front 7 in terms of stopping the run, allowing 145.5 yards per game on the road. Minnesota averages 118 yards on the ground, so look for them to control the tempo and keep the Rams offense off the field. The reason I like the Rams is the familiarity of Wade Phillips with Case Keenum from the time they spent together in Houston. Look for him to exploit his weaknesses in a low scoring affair. Both sides have a case, and sometimes the best bet is no bet.
For any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on twitter.
As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.