Oakland Raiders v. Houston Texans Game Day Open Thread

Nov 21, 2016; Mexico City, MEX; Oakland Raiders fans pose during a NFL International Series game against the Houston Texans at Estadio Azteca. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2016; Mexico City, MEX; Oakland Raiders fans pose during a NFL International Series game against the Houston Texans at Estadio Azteca. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders are set to clash with the Houston Texans in a game that has some very serious playoff significance for both teams – come talk about the game and all things Raiders football here!

It seems like it’s been quite a while since the Oakland Raiders played a game that carried as much weight as tonight’s clash with the Houston Texans. With Tampa Bay’s victory over Kansas City yesterday, the Raiders have a chance to reclaim sole possession of first place in the ultra-competitive AFC West.

A win tonight puts the Raiders in the driver’s seat as we round the bend and head for the home stretch of the regular season. Win, and they’re 8-2 – firmly in control of their own playoff destiny. And if they continue playing as they have thus far this season, it’s a playoff destiny that could include a high seed come playoff time.

A loss wouldn’t be the end of the world, though at 7-3, they would fall into a three-way tie atop the division. And with a loss to the Chiefs already this season, the loss of the head-to-head tie breaker could prove signficant down the line.

To get the win, the Raiders are going to have to rely on the formula that allowed them to dominate the Denver Broncos just two weeks ago. And that formula is a heavy dose of their three-headed beast in the backfield – Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington.

That trio has proved incredibly effective and gashed the Broncos vaunted defense for 218 yards and a hat trick of touchdowns from Murray. They come into the game with the league’s fourth best rushing attack and it’s an element of their offense that has truly allowed their passing game to flourish.

Speaking of that passing attack, Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree have proven to be one of the league’s top units. Don’t tell that to the Broncos though, who still refuse to admit that this passing attack could be elite.

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Oakland has the league’s fifth best passing game and Carr has proven to be among the tops in the league. His 17 touchdowns against just three interceptions put him among the league’s best. Cooper’s 843 receiving yards currently slot him sixth in the league – though the five players ahead of him all have a game in hand on him. If Cooper is as productive tonight as he has been all season, he’ll find himself firmly back in the top five.

Crabtree may not have as many yards as Cooper (596), but his six touchdown grabs put him among the league leaders as well. If there is one weakness to Oakland’s passing game, it’s that they haven’t gotten a tremendous amount of production from pass catching tight ends Clive Walford (199 yards and one score) or Mychal Rivera (72 yards and one score). But playing in the slot, Seth Roberts has racked up nearly 300 receiving yards and has four touchdowns on the season.

Okaland’s passing game – led by one of the very best offensive lines in the game today – is dynamic and explosive. But they will be tested by Houston’s passing defense, which checks in as the league’s third best squad. Carr and company will have to play smart, take care of the ball, and don’t try to get too cutesy against Houston’s secondary.

The Raiders will also need to rely on their defense stepping up and playing large. They took a beating in the early part of the season and found themselves getting gashed week in and week out. With so many new faces on that side of the ball, perhaps it should have been expected.

But now, nine games into the season, the defense seems like it’s coming together. Things seem like they’re starting to gel. After their debacle against the Chiefs a few weeks back, this team has strung together a series of outstanding defensive performances and really seems to be on the right track.

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Over the last three games, they’ve held the Jaguars, Buccaneers, and Broncos to 344 yards, 277 yards, and 290 yards respectively. They’ve also given up an average of just 20 points a game. It’s a drastic improvement over the early part of the season and would rank them among the league’s better units over that stretch of time.

The defensive improvement couldn’t come at a better time. Especially where it concerns the pass rush as well as their run defense. The Raiders – Khalil Mack in particular – have turned it up a few notches and have been applying consistent and ferocious pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Mack has six sacks over his last four games and given that he dropped Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler five times the last time he faced him, you can bet he’s already licking his chops. The Texans have a pretty decent offensive line and have allowed just 17 sacks on the year, but they’re going to have their hands full trying to contain both Mack and Bruce Irvin.

Where the real test is going to come is against Houston’s running game. The Texans check in with the league’s fifth best rushing attack and though improving, the Raiders still find themselves with the league’s twenty-fifth best run defense.

However, if they can stifle Houston the way they did Denver – limiting the Broncos to just 33 yards on the ground – they will put the game on the shoulders of Osweiler, who thus far, hasn’t looked to be up to the task. Though the Texans are 6-3, they’re at best, a shaky 6-3 with Osweiler under center.

Final. 27. 28. 20. 10

If the Raiders can take away the running game and putting it all on the arm of a guy who’s thrown 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season – and has a completion percentage below 60 percent and a QB rating of 74.1, you have to like Oakland’s chances.

There is a lot riding on this game for both teams. But if the Raiders want to prove they are the best in the west, they can take a big step toward doing that with a win tonight. Win, and they’re in the driver’s seat, with the rest of their division foes chasing them. It will also help put to rest, much of the “they’re a soft 7-2” talk that has permeated some elements of the media.

Next: A Few Keys To Victory Over Houston

It all gets underway from Azteca Stadium soon. So, now is the time to call your shot. How do you see this game playing out? What are the biggest storylines to you? Who is going to win this ballgame?
This is your place to talk about the game and all things Raiders football. So step up, speak out, and be heard. And GO RAIDERS!