There are plenty of factors that go into deciding an NFL game. This one has a couple of additional items to throw into the mix. We'll get to those first then deal with some of the standard, yet more important fare.
The EnvironmentI've talked on the air this week with several people who have covered the NFL in Mexico City before. The consensus is that the crowd will know a lot more about the game than you might think. But they will be extra noisy from the get-go. Yes it's a Oakland Raider home game but there are literally thousands of Texans fans making the trek. And the locals will be exercising their vocal cords big time.
They're excited to have the sport back in town and they are accustomed to cheering from start to finish ala soccer. So don't expect too much down time when it comes to sheer volume. In fact, we've been told we won't need crowd microphones for our radio broadcasts. The headsets will take in plenty.
Opinions vary from 'Don't think about it' to 'Grab the Oxygen!' Actually it is an issue. Romeo Crennel said it's important to start hydrating days before you leave. Rick Smith told us, yes, oxygen will be available on the sideline, as always in the NFL. The good thing here is you're not dealing with the Mexico City Raiders. It's the Oakland Raiders and they are in the same boat. In fact, Jack Del Rio pointed out that they are the ones who have to travel across two times zones to play a 'home' game.
Both teams have top five rushing attacks and it is safe to say that the squad with the most rushing yards and least turnovers probably wins this one. Houston has done a good job against the run in the last two outings and needs that momentum to continue. As my friend John Harris points out, against common opponents (Jax, Tenn, Denv, K.C.) Derek Carr has only thrown a total of three touchdown passes in those games. Yet the Raiders are 3-1. So are the Texans. The point here is that yards on the ground are a commodity both teams covet.
The Bottom Line
For the Texans to come out on top they have to play clean like last week. The pundits might still be hyperventilating about 99 passing yards last week but third down passing and overall efficiency is the key here. Last year, Osweiler, as a Bronco, threw for over 300 yards with no turnovers in a loss against Oakland. This game will be about taking advantage of scoring opportunities and making sure the Raider offense has to work hard for every point.
The NFL has played games at Estadio Azteca in Mexico in the past, including the league's first international regular season game in 2005 between the 49ers and Cardinals.