The Chiefs and Chargers are playing tonight in Mexico City, and the altitude will be a factor.
Both teams are accustomed to playing at the mile high elevation in Denver every year, but Mexico City’s altitude will pose an even greater challenge. The game is at Azteca Stadium, which is 7,380 feet above sea level, or 2,100 feet higher than the 5,280-foot altitude of Denver.
It can be tough for athletes to acclimate to high altitudes, which is why the Chargers spent last week practicing at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which has a virtually identical elevation as Mexico City. The Chiefs, however, said they were better off remaining in their home facilities and aren’t approaching tonight’s game much differently from any other road game.
If the Chargers are going strong and the Chiefs are sucking wind in the fourth quarter, the Chargers will look smart for accounting for the altitude.
Also affected will be the kicking game. The last time the NFL had a game in Mexico City, two years ago, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 62-yard field goal, by far the longest of his career, and the altitude was undeniably a factor in that. A kicked football typically travels about 10 percent farther in Denver than it would at sea level, and it should travel farther still in Mexico City.
Chargers kicker Michael Badgley hit a career-long 59-yard field goal in Los Angeles last year, so if he gets the opportunity, he has a shot at breaking the NFL record for longest field goal: 64 yards, set by Matt Prater in Denver in 2013. Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker has a career-long field goal of 54 yards, so expecting him to hit one from 65 may be unrealistic even at 7,000 feet.
Whether the altitude proves advantageous to either team remains to be seen, but it’s undeniably a factor in Mexico City.