Play Action or Pass Week 11: Preparation for elevation

Play Action or Pass Week 11: Preparation for elevation
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:

Patriots  85%

Eagles  82%

Lions  80%

Chiefs  76%

Jaguars  70%

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.


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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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