One year after battling the New England Patriots for the best record in the AFC, the Oakland Raiders are waging a different fight, trying to climb into position for a postseason berth. Once again the Raiders will be looking to overcome the Patriots when the teams square off Sunday afternoon at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
Having split the last two games on the road against AFC East rivals of New England, Oakland’s players are trying not to be too deferential to the reigning Super Bowl champions as they return from their bye week. “It’s not a scary thing to play them,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “Let’s not make it something it’s not, but let’s respect that they’re very smart. They’re very wise in how they game plan things.” Part of that planning for the Patriots, winners of five in a row, was staying in Colorado after demolishing the Denver Broncos 41-16 last weekend to adapt to the altitude in Mexico City. “It always gets you excited heading into a new atmosphere not knowing what to expect exactly, so it’s going to be something different,” New England star tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “It’s going to be something fun.”
TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -7. O/U: 54
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (7-2): Tom Brady earned his second AFC Offensive Player of the Week award after throwing for 266 yards and three scores in the rout at Denver, giving him 19 TDs, two interceptions and a league-high 2,807 yards. Gronkowski has five touchdown catches and at least one reception of 22 yards in seven straight games while speedster Brandin Cooks has 26 catches during the five-game winning streak. New England has rotated a number of running backs but Dion Lewis appears to have taken the lead role with double-digit carries in each of the past four games. The defense has sparkled since a 2-2 start to the season, not allowing more than 17 points in the past five games.
ABOUT THE RAIDERS (4-5): After a three-game stretch in which he averaged 144 yards passing, Carr has aired it out over the past three games, throwing for 1,030 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Marshawn Lynch, whose last game against New England ended with a rush to the 1-yard line in Super Bowl XLIX, returned from a one-game suspension to rush for 57 yards and two TDs in a 27-24 win at Miami. Amari Cooper has emerged from a five-week slumber and was targeted 38 times over the last three games, resulting in 20 receptions for 314 yards. The Raiders need more production from their defense — they are tied for last in sacks (13) and have yet to record an interception.
1. Brady has 47 TD passes against only four interceptions since the start of the 2016 season.
2. Raiders DB Khalil Mack, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has only a half-sack over the past five games.
3. The teams have met only four times in the past 12 years, with the Patriots winning each — the last by 16-9 in 2014.
PREDICTION: Patriots 27, Raiders 23