The story of the season for the Oakland Raiders has been their inability to move the ball down field and put points on the board. The defense, on the other hand, has patently exceeded expectations.
In order to beat the Houston Texans in their house, the Raiders must find ways to move the ball efficiently, particularly in the pass attack, and continue to be a force defensively. Unfortunately, the Raiders will be going up against a defensive minded group which ranks first in total defense, giving up roughly 280 yards per game.
Keys to the Ignition
First and foremost, the defense needs to provide firepower and continue to play at a high level in order to contain the dangerous offense of the Texans. Despite riding on a dreadful seven-game losing streak (2-7), the Texans are an exceedingly talented bunch, therefore defenses need to be particularly cautious when defending them. Case Keenum, the young signal caller for Houston, has played extremely well since his debut against Kansas City. He’s thrown seven touchdown passes for 822 yards, and for those who love the quarterback rating statistic, he’s recorded a 105.1 rating since being named the starter in Week 7. Even more so, the Texans have lost by a combined seven points in their last three matchups with Keenum under center.
Veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson, whose respectively remained a top receiver throughout the entirety of his career, will be a load to handle. Johnson typically lines up on the outside, therefore Mike Jenkins is expected to take on the challenge against the superstar. Expect defensive coordinator Jason Tarver to call a lot of zone defenses, simply because one on one with Andre Johnson on the outside could be nightmare for the Silver and Black. Johnson has stupendous strength and is unarguably one of the league’s best route runners. Keenum and Johnson have built chemistry swiftly, as Johnson has caught five touchdown passes since Keenum’s resurgence. Quarterbacks quickly fall in love with receivers like Johnson.
Containing defensive end J.J. Watt is never fun, and always scary. Watt is stellar coming off the edge for the Texans, and has been the heart of the defense since his emergence. Many consider Watt as the best edge rusher in the league, which is certainly tough to disagree with. He has exceptional strength, along with great speed and quickness for a guy his size (Watt is 6’5″ 290). Watt destroyed opposing offenses last season on his way toward winning the league’s defensive player of the year award, and even though he doesn’t quite have the numbers he had at this point last season, he’s still no less of a threat.
Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, the offense needs to find a way to consistently move the ball. The Raiders rank 31st in passing yards per game (187.6), for they have unquestionably been incompetent in the pass attack. With Terrelle Pryor being hampered by a sprained MCL, Matt McGloin may get the nod for the starting role this week. Pryor has endeavored to help move the ball for the Raiders, though he has struggled terribly passing the football his last few starts. I’m curious to see, if McGloin is called as the starter, how he handles himself as a pocket passer with an offensive line that has taken significant strides in becoming healthier.
The Raiders are coming into Houston as the underdogs, as they will be playing in a very hostile environment against a more talented team. Nevertheless, this is still a winnable game for Oakland, though Houston’s superstars – Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt, must be contained. If the Raiders are able to move the ball effectively and put some points on the board for their defense, I believe the Raiders could win this game.