This is not a misprint; the Oakland Raiders are 8-2 and in first place in the AFC West, a division of the NFL’s American Football Conference.
For lifelong silver and black fans like myself, this may seem like a dream come true, and it is. Oakland is firing on all cylinders and proved just how strong they are on the road when they played a “home” game in Mexico City yesterday and handed the Houston Texans a 20-17 loss.
The game was part of a three-year deal between Mexico and the NFL to play one game per year at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, this year’s game being the first of three. This is part of an initiative by the league to globalize their game and gain more international notoriety and fans, according to Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office.
The league has had a long presence in London at Wembley Stadium and has sent teams to play games across the pond every year since 2007.
For the Raiders, despite being a thousand miles from home, it still felt like a home game. The fans booed the Texans and cheered the Raiders excessively. With the game tied at 20 late in the fourth quarter, third-year quarterback Derek Carr found second-year wide out Amari Cooper for the game clinching score.
Despite struggling on offense early in the game, Carr and the Raider offense woke up late and he finished the game 21 for 31, passing with 295 yards and three touchdowns. It was a much-needed aerial attack for Oakland, who managed just 35 yards on 15 carries from their top two rushers.
Azteca Stadium is 7,200 feet above sea level, more than 2,000 feet higher than Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos, which can make it hard to breathe. However, Oakland overcame that obstacle and now stands alone at the top of their division with just six regular season games remaining.
Next up for the Raiders is a real home game in Oakland on Sunday when they host the reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton and the struggling Carolina Panthers, who are 4-6 this year and coming off a 23-20 win over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.