The Oakland Raiders head into Sunday facing an opponent that, before the season started, would have been favorites to make the playoff. Now sitting at 2-7 after a 2-0 start, the Texans look to break a losing streak that has to be embarrassing for such a talented team. From a historical perspective, the all-time head to head record stands at 5-2 in the Texans’ favor. The two teams have a little intertwined history before that going back to the Houston Oiler days and as some of you may know, the Texans spawned the Kansas City Chiefs. Back in 1963, the Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City and became the hated Chiefs. Now you’re welcome to use that trivia on your friends.
With the historical perspective you get a feel for where a rivalry comes from. While these two teams don’t share a rivalry, the fact that they play in the same conference leaves the possibility open in the future for one to develop. With that being said, lets take a look at three Things we can look for in this game:
1. Houston Texans League Leading Pass Defense
The Texans may only be 2-7, but they still have one of the best defensive coordinators in the game in Wade Phillips. Going into this weekend the Texans have only allowed 1499 yards, that’s almost 300 yards better than the next best team. Considering the Raiders have the 31st ranked passing attack, it’s difficult to see any advantage in a pass heavy gameplan.
The Texans have J.J Watt on the defensive line who is great at swatting balls at the line of scrimmage. This means the the right side of the Raider offensive line will have to punch him in the gut every time the ball is thrown, to prevent him from getting his hands on the ball. The Texans employ a very physical man to man coverage in the secondary and I don’t see the inexperienced Raider receivers holding their own and beating their man in press coverage.
This game should feature a heavy dose of Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden. Jennings is likely to see more carries after averaging 4.2 yards per touch. The Oakland offensive line is getting healthy and are close to getting left tackle Jared Veldheer, who started practicing this week, back into the lineup. The run game has to carry this team through the rest of the season behind a recovering line.
2. Raiders Pass Rush And Blitz Packages
The Silver and Black are facing a team that will have an undrafted rookie quarterback playing behind center. Getting Case Keenum to rush his progression and throws will force turnovers. The Texans have not handled pressure very well in the last few weeks and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will throw in many different looks to confuse the young quarterback.
The Texans lost star running back Arian Foster to an injury, but they still have a dynamic backup in Ben Tate who can light it up on any one play. The Houston running game will be a matchup to watch against the seventh-ranked Oakland run defense.
The Texans will try to drive the ball downfield and exploit the Raiders secondary as the Philadelphia Eagles did a couple weeks back. Houston has two dynamic receivers in Andre Johnson and rookie DeAndre Hopkins who will look to beat their man in single coverage.
3. Will Terrelle Pryor Play?
That has to be one of the most significant questions to answer in this game. If Pryor plays the Raiders have a decent chance at winning this have game. If he doesn’t play, the Raiders will find out what they have in an enigmatic undrafted rookie quarterback Matt McGloin. Pryor has missed a couple of practices this week and spent some sessions splitting reps with the rookie. Pryor was took a blow to his knee in the loss to the Eagles in which he was replaced by McGloin, who led the Raiders on a touchdown drive late in the game.
In that game, the rookie from Penn State went 7-for-15 for 87 yards. If Pryor is scratched from this game, McGloin will get his first start in the NFL after going undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft. With McGloin behind center, the Raider receiving corps will have to lend a helping hand to the young quarterback.
If Pryor is able to play, don’t look for any explosive running plays from him. He looked ordinary with a knee brace on against the New York Giants. It will be difficult for the Raiders without a run game and Pryor has proven that he is unable to be a pocket passer. If Pryor doesn’t evolve his progression after the snap, he will be out of a job soon. The NFL defenses dint like chasing a quarterback and they will put a beating on this quarterbacks if they dare to run. Pryor has trouble making his reads pre-snap and that will doom him. Peyton Manning couldn’t run away from a snail, but he always knew what the defense was doing. Pryor just doesn’t have that ability, and if he doesn’t evolve that side of his game he will end up hurt or out of the league.
This gave will come down to the basics, can the Raiders impose their will on the Texans defense and run on them or will the Texans make this team one dimensional and irrelevant. My guess is this could potentially end the Raiders’ season. Another season of misery looms for the Team of the Decades, another lost season. Could the silver and black stem the tide and pull out a victory? Stay tuned this Sunday.