Oct. 15, 2016
Obstructed AFC Wild Card Preview: Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans
So the Wild Card is among us. 4 games and I will try to cover each of the games before the weekend rolls around. Who will win? How can they win?
So the Raiders make a return to the playoff after their last appearance, the disastrous Super Bowl game against Tampa Bay way back 14 years ago. Of course, they are crashing into it with Derek Carr injured and if you saw the Denver game, Oakland was in big trouble. The question is, are they in bigger trouble Saturday against the Texans, who have a bevvy of questions themselves?
OAKLAND RAIDERS AT HOUSTON TEXANS, 4:30, ESPN/ABC
Line: Houston by 2.5.
THE RAIDERS CAN WIN IF:
1. The running game takes pressure off of either Matt McGloin or Connor Cook: Going to be hard given the Raiders are facing the #1 defense in the league. Also very hard to run when you have all but abandoned it against Denver last week. Obviously the big issue for Oakland will be how much help will be Cook or McGloin for them? They need to take as much pressure as they can off those two. The running game is the one, and maybe only way to get them relaxed.
2. Find a way to get the ball to Amari Cooper: Let's face it: we're not going to see either Raiders QB throw for 300 yards and 3 TD's Saturday. But you need to give it to your playmakers. And it is why Kansas City is the #2 seed was they did that. If Oakland is going to win, Amari Cooper needs to be a big part of the offense. Use sweeps, get the ball to him on slants & screens, something. Keeping him without the ball will pretty much keep the Raiders in single digits for scoring. Even Houston's offense can score a bit more.
3. Frustrate Houston's QB, whether it is Savage or Osweiler: With Savage in concussion protocol, it seems like it will be Osweiler going for the Texans, a move that Houston fans are rolling their eyes on. That said, Oakland's defense has been consistently inconsistent really the entire season. And honestly, giving up 350 yards of total offense to Houston down in Mexico City is not impressive. But they have to do a better job of frustrating him and getting a few takeaways.
4. Stop Miller at all costs. Lamar Miller went for 104 and a TD in the first meeting. Yes, the Texans lost, but Miller needs to be stopped more if the Raiders have any chance. Oakland will not win this game by scoring 28 points. They have to keep it low and if right now the Texans score 14, it might be too much at this point. And Miller will be the reason why they score anything.
THE TEXANS CAN WIN IF
1. The defense remains the defense. The Texans defense won't be confused with the 85 Bears, 2000 Ravens, or 02 Bucs, especially without JJ Watt there, but they are a solid bunch. They do not give up a lot of points and hold the ground game as good as anybody in the league. Which means, they will have to force Cook or McGloin to beat them. And I don't see that happening.
2. Osweiler plays smart. To me, Houston doesn't need to do a whole lot in terms of winning this game. The key issue will be protecting the ball. If Osweiler throws 2-3 INT's in this game, a win for the Texans is not a guarantee at all. But you do have to wonder where his confidence is given how he was booed off the field the last time he played in Houston and didn't play astounding against Tennessee in the final week.
3. Take Cooper out of the game. He didn't have the best of games when the Raiders faced the Texans back in Week 11, but Derek Carr used all of his weapons, which hurt Houston. But no Carr, and it also means they will look to their top guys. Rookie and young QB's have a knack of going to the go-to guy for a crutch and I think Houston will be prepared for that. If Houston keeps Cooper from making any big plays, it could be a long day for the Raiders offense.
4. Lamar Miller has a big day. He should be ready after a two game absence. But, much like Murray and Washington need to take pressure off of Oakland's QB, Miller will have to do that for Houston. If he does that and nets about 100+ yards, it will open up the passing game and give DeAndre Hopkins some looks and he could create havoc as well.
MY PREDICTION: Houston gets Oakland at the most perfect time. Had Carr played, the Texans probably faced the Chiefs in the 1st round and probably cause more issues for them. That said, it is who you get and when. Houston is beneficial from getting inexperienced and right now ineffective quarterbacks with either McGloin or Cook. They can zero in on the run game and Cooper and it will hurt Oakland badly. The Raiders will have a tough time stopping Miller and Osweiler will play well enough to win (though not keep the critics off his back). Add the fact the game is in Houston and Oakland might be reeling from losing the #2 seed in the playoff, the Texans are primed for a rematch with New England (lost 27-0) or a rematch with Kansas City (won 19-12). MY PREDICTED SCORE: TEXANS 20, RAIDERS 6
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat