For the Oakland Raiders, they will be without Derek Carr and his back up Matt McGloin. On the other side, the Houston Texans are missing JJ Watt. So you are probably wondering why you should watch this game. You should watch this game for the unpredictable, the unthinkable, sheer chaos. I promise you any and everything will go wrong in this football game. Both teams are missing their leaders and they lack the confidence that a team needs in order to win a playoff game.
Houston is the home team in this one, but they are by no means the overwhelming favorite to win this one. In fact, they have more to prove than the Raiders do. We know Oakland is not the same team they saw in a 27-20 road loss. Brock Osweiler can silence some critics with a playoff win. He will get the start and frankly he should be starting after they gave him a huge contract last offseason. Lamar Miller ran for over 100 yards in that loss to the Raiders and will likely get 20 to 30 touches. If he can run it effectively, it will help settle Osweiler down in the pocket and take the top off of a secondary with plenty of holes. They need Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney to play like their hair is on fire.
Oakland cannot feel bad for themselves and wonder “why us” after getting hit hard with injuries. The offense has to rally around Connor Cook who performed well last week as he completed 66.7 percent of his 21 throws including a touchdown to Amari Cooper. He probably has not had much work with the first unit so Jack Del Rio has to make sure he does not put his young quarterback behind in the down and distance. I expect the offense to run a lot of screens, swing passes, and short to intermediate passes to get Cook in rhythm. Ultimately, we know Cooper and Michael Crabtree, who are 1,000-yard receivers, need to see 10+ targets each.
Oakland: Obviously Cook will receive the media’s attention, but Latavius Murray cannot afford to run for 33 yards against this stingy Texans defense again. Oakland needs to pound the rock and ride the “Tay Train.” He has a nose for scoring as he had 12 touchdowns and he has the speed to take it to the house. Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington are more the capable of spelling him. Cook will dump it off to these guys if he feels pressured.
Houston: Bernadrick McKinney leads his team in tackles with 129 and he recorded five sacks. He has slowly matured into a leader in the absence of Watt. He will be in charge of confusing the rookie quarterback and making sure they force him to beat them. If they shut down the run, they could force some errant throws and seal the deal.
A rookie quarterback on the road versus a stingy defense should be a disaster right? I am willing to go against the grain and pick the Raiders in this one. Cook held his own against a physical Denver Broncos defense last week. The Texans are stingy, but they do not generate the sacks the Broncos do. I have always liked his poise and intelligence since his days at Michigan State. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin should frustrate Osweiler and force bad throws. I just do not think the Texans can fix a season’s worth of offensive woes in a matter of days.
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