Protect the Ball, Control the Clock, and Avoid the Flags
Obviously, winning the turnover battle goes a long way toward helping you win the game. And so far this season, the Raiders have done a fantastic job of doing just that. They’ve been opportunistic in racking up 15 takeaways, but have been pretty stingy with just six total giveaways. Their plus nine turnover differential is third best in the league – a ranking this Raiders team hasn’t achieved in years.
They’ll need to have another clean game in Mexico City. Houston finds themselves on the wrong side of that differential, checking in with a negative five (eight takeaways to 13 giveaways). But that doesn’t mean Oakland can afford to be careless with the ball. They need to make smart decisions and protect the football at all costs. If they don’t, things can spiral and then unravel pretty quickly.
The Raiders would do well to follow a formula similar to the one they employed against the Broncos two weeks ago – which means heavy doses of their ground game interspersed with their explosive passing game.
If they can run the ball successfully – and given that Houston has the league’s twenty-sixth best run defense, they should be able to – they’ll be able to control the clock, impose their will onto the Texans, and dictate the pace of the game. Much as they did against Denver two weeks ago.
It was a winning formula then, it can be a winning formula again.
And lastly, they want to avoid seeing those yellow flags if at all possible. Though they had a better game against the Broncos, they still drew eight flags for 72 yards on the day. Granted, it was a drastic improvement from the 23 they accrued against Tampa Bay, but that is a pretty low bar to clear.
The Raiders can’t continue giving away big chunks of yardage each and every game. They’ve been able to overcome that sort of self-inflicted adversity to this point. But eventually, it’s going to catch up with them.
Oakland must do everything within their power to eliminate the mental mistakes and play a clean, flag-free game. Or as close to it as possible. They might just be shocked how much simpler life, and the game of football can be if they stop giving up almost a field’s length of yardage for free every single game.