Altitude in Mexico City will affect the kicking game tonight

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With the Raiders and Texans set to play tonight at the high altitude of Mexico City, the kicking game could be significantly affected.

Azteca Stadium, where tonight’s game will be played, is 7,380 feet above sea level. That’s much higher than the 5,280-foot altitude of Denver, the NFL’s highest city, and high enough that a record-long field goal could be a possibility.

The longest field goal in NFL history, a 64-yarder by Matt Prater, was kicked at Denver, and three of the five longest field goals ever have been in Denver. Kickers and physicists alike have estimated that a kicked football travels about 10 percent farther in Denver than it would travel at sea level, and in Mexico City a ball will travel farther still. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski or Texans kicker Nick Novak boom one from beyond 60 yards.

Kickoff strategy may be an even bigger issue in Mexico City tonight because both the Texans and the Raiders employ the short-kick strategy on kickoffs. The Texans have touchbacks on just 16.3 percent of their kickoffs, by far the lowest in the NFL, and the Raiders have touchbacks on 50 percent of their kickoffs, tied for the sixth-lowest in the NFL. Will the teams decide to eschew that strategy in Mexico City, where it’s easy to boot the ball out the back of the end zone for a touchback? Or will they double down on the strategy and kick the ball particularly high and short of the goal line, trying to pin the opponent well inside the 25-yard line?

Punts will travel farther tonight as well. Raiders punter Marquette King ranks fifth in the NFL with a 48.4-yard average, while Texans punter Shane Lechler ranks sixth with a 48.2-yard average. They can both hit their punts in the 50-yard to 60-yard range in Mexico City, although they may instead go for additional hang time instead of additional length so as not to out-kick their coverage.

Both teams are playing at an altitude higher than they’re accustomed to, which also makes it harder for players to breathe, and players on both teams have said they’ve tried to do extra cardiovascular conditioning to get ready for Mexico City. There’s no doubt that the altitude will make a difference tonight.

30 responses to “Altitude in Mexico City will affect the kicking game tonight

  1. “Both teams are playing at an altitude higher than they’re accustomed to, which also makes it harder for players to breathe..”

    As will the pollution. Truly lousy air quality combined with thin air is going to have a lot of guys spending as much time wearing oxygen masks as face masks

  2. Wouldn’t it be funny if janakowski lined up for a 70 yard field goal, kicked it as mightily as he could, and the ball just kept rising and rising until it went clear out of the stadium? Oh, how his teammates would rejoice, carrying him around on their shoulders as the crowd chants “gringo! Gringo!” my world is a lot more fun than the real one.

  3. The low air density is balanced out by the stunning pollution. It’ll be like kicking through a tire yard fire on top of Mt. Everest.

  4. This mexico city crap is a joke, its a tight race in the AFC west and one of the teams competing for first place loses a home game to NFL greed….

    Its almost 2017 we cant figure out the math to make it so both teams call this a road game and dont lose a home game?

  5. psubeerman21 says:
    …my world is a lot more fun than the real one.
    _______________

    That automatically qualifies you for membership in the Vikings fan club.

  6. The comments here about Mexico City’s horrendous air pollution are hilarious, until you realize we’re going to be in exactly the same situation once your boy Trump and his Republican buddies get in power and dismantle the EPA and all our pollution laws and regulations, which is high on their ‘to-do’ list. Better take a deep breath now, it might be the last one you ever take.

  7. psubeerman21 says:
    Nov 21, 2016 3:47 PM

    Wouldn’t it be funny if janakowski lined up for a 70 yard field goal, kicked it as mightily as he could, and the ball just kept rising and rising until it went clear out of the stadium?

    ————–

    And they could call him Gus.

  8. Time for some intentional TD group celebrations. It’s the big middle finger Al would give if he were still alive. Kicking back 15 yards makes it easier to plant the ball at the goalline.

  9. Might be the first time I’m excited to see a punter in a game. King in this altitude is gonna be must see.

  10. I did a calculation, the difference in altitude is directly offset by the pollution in the air slowing it down. The only difference now is a missed extra pt tonight will be because it hit a patch of yellow smog. Honestly I use to have to work down there. The air that hangs over the city is yellow!

  11. fordmandalay says:
    Nov 21, 2016 4:07 PM
    The comments here about Mexico City’s horrendous air pollution are hilarious, until you realize we’re going to be in exactly the same situation once your boy Trump and his Republican buddies get in power and dismantle the EPA and all our pollution laws and regulations, which is high on their ‘to-do’ list. Better take a deep breath now, it might be the last one you ever take.

    ——————————————————————
    Geez, thanks for taking a football site and making it about your political complaining…jesus the election is over…go complain about politics somewhere else so football fans can enjoy a coherent discussion

  12. and the raider haters made of fun of Al for taking sea bass with a first rd pick….he is coming up on the great George Blanda points record for the raiders….and he endured some horrendous offensive teams in his career, unlike George….now if we can get seabass to play qb…lol

    Go Raiders…….break the record…and go MK as well, show the world why we cut Shane.

  13. Two observations here: Once again we see that the NFL will sacrifice the health of the players for more $$. Second, Jannikowski has been terrible from long range all year. Which team has the better offensive line and running game. It pains me to say it but it is probably the raiders. Being alone in first place will be short-lived.

  14. The ball gets on you quicker too. Its weird but nanoseconds are different, and you feel like you almost got hit in the face when you catch a ball. Like you couldn’t get your hand up fast enough. But you do, but it can throw you, just saying.

  15. If I had to prepare a team for that altitude I’d book a hotel in Aspen or Telluride and get there a week ahead of time. Find a field – or whatever – for walk throughs, but mostly for getting acclimatized to the altitude. This game will likely be won by the team with the best conditioning, not who has the best game plan.
    On a side note; just what genius decided to get 2 teams that live and play at sea level and get them to play on top of a mountain?
    (Never mind, we know the answer; the same folks that care so much for the players health and welfare.)

  16. I’m also chiming in on the air pollution. Mexico doesn’t require cars to clean their tailpipe exhausts. The difference is immediately noticeable. If the NFL were to locate a team down there, the poor air quality would be an issue.

    I’m sure the players have been warned not to comment on the issue.

    Wonder if any of the players will raise their fist in the air during the national anthem, ala Mexico City 1968.

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