This weekend sees the 5th and final game of the 2017 NFL international series as the New England Patriots take on the Oakland Raiders.
Unlike the previous four games, which were held at Wembley Stadium and Twickenham Stadium in London, this one will take place in Mexico City, Mexico at the Estadio Azteca and will kickoff at 9:25pm UK time.
The Estadio Azteca was opened in 1966 and is the largest stadium in the country and has a capacity of 87,000. It’s currently home to domestic league team America as well as the Mexican national side and can claim to have hosted a couple of World Cup finals in its time.
Upon seeing images of the stadium I immediately thought of Twickenham Stadium with all its concrete and dated ugliness. It certainly doesn’t make for a welcoming, friendly environment but I can see why the atmosphere in there is electric on football (soccer) game days.
After the recent 7.1 magnitude earthquake which hit the country some 76 miles south of Mexico City, it was being claimed that a large crack had appeared in the structure of the stadium. Although the next football game to be scheduled to be played there after the disaster was postponed, it has been revealed that no such crack appeared and the gap in the structure is actually a design feature added to allow the building to move and flex during such an earthquake. The video below was added to Twitter and shows the gap in action during the event. You can see and hear the construction design feature in action:
The New England Patriots come into this game sitting pretty at the top of the AFC East after a shaky start to the season. They’re currently on a 5 game win streak and have pulled out to 7-2, 2 games ahead of the Buffalo Bills who are at 5-4 after losing their last two games. The Patriots and Steelers are now the best two teams in the AFC with their 7-2 records and the Patriots seem to have got their shit together after that un-Patriots like start to the year.
The Oakland Raiders, on the other hand, seem to have taken a step back from their brilliant 12-4 2016 season record. They currently have a 4-5 record so definitely won’t be bettering last years effort.
A possible plus point for the ‘home’ team Raiders in this one could be that they are coming off a bye week after their 27-24 win over the stuttering Dolphins. We could be forgiven for thinking that the team would have taken advantage of the bye week and headed to Mexico City early in order to get acclimatised to the altitude as the city is 7,300 feet above sea-level. The team hasn’t done so and will actually only arrive there on the Saturday night before the game. This is because they will be approaching this game as they would an away game to the 6,000 feet above sea-level Denver game where they believe it’s better to get in and out of there asap so that the altitude doesn’t have a chance to take effect on the players and their stamina levels.
The Patriots, though, have decided to stay in Colorado after their game against the Broncos this week and will train there to give their players a chance to acclimatise. There would appear to be conflicting medical ideas as how best to approach the altitude situation and both teams are trying different methods. This might be a good little sub-plot to the game…..or maybe not.
I believe this is the game many UK fans forget about when discussions arise on social media about how many games we’ll be getting in 2018 and beyond. Many times people are stating that the NFL has said there will be 5 games, but this has always included this Mexico game as well as the London games as they refer to the series as the “International Series” at times and “NFL London” at others. However many games we get from 2018 onwards, things are looking good for NFL regular season games being played abroad and I hope everyone travelling to this final one of the year enjoys it and has fun!
I’m sure the atmosphere will be buzzing inside the stadium just as it was last season when the Raiders played host to the Houston Texans there. This is a good place for the Raiders to play as they are very well supported in Mexico and, unlike in the UK stadiums at times, the home team Raiders fans there generate a good volume of noise at the right times of the game as there are so many of them.
It should make for an interesting game but I can’t really see anything other than a Patriots win.