For the first time since 2005, the NFL will be south of the border as the Texans take on the Raiders in the fourth International Series game of the season. This also marks the fourth time the Texans will make an appearance in prime time this season. The less said about the other three, the better (with the exception of the last quarter and overtime of the Colts game).
To some, the Texans have floundered their way to 6-3 this season. As they look to extend that record to 7-3, what's worth the watch?
Heading into the Raiders game, it will have been 22 days since Brock Osweiler last threw an interception. That's an optimistic way of looking at the fact that the Jaguars game is the first time we've gone without one, and it came after a bye.
Sadly for the Texans, the Raiders have eight interceptions and thirteen forced fumbles (seven of which were recovered) this season. Adding to that total looks almost inevitable. It's a question not of if an interception is thrown, but how many.
Conversely, after a strong start to the season, the Texans' defense has been struggling to force turnovers. Four interceptions and four fumbles recovered to this point of the season leaves them 30th in the NFL in defensive takeaways, above only the Jaguars and Lions. We could really do with some extra possessions of the ball, especially if we continue to leave points on the field with missed field goals and failed red zone attempts.
2. David Carr's Brother
You know, the other Carr. The one the Texans could have had in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but no one could get over the fact his surname was Carr. Instead, we drafted Xavier Su'a-Filo with the first pick in the second round. You could argue XSF isn't even in the top five guards drafted that year.
Derek Carr been pretty good it this year, which doesn't bode well for our chances this week. He's having a career year in completion percentage, yards per game, and quarterback rating. He has thrown just three interceptions. Derek Carr might just be the anti-Osweiler.
The question is whether the Texans keep Carr in check. The pass rush will have to be disciplined, as Carr is more than able to tuck it and run to gain some yards when it all breaks down. He's also shown he's able to squeeze it into some tight windows against good coverage, which means Charles James' length (if he sees the field on defense) could become an issue again.
This will be another tough QB for the defense to handle. That's for sure.
3. Oakland's Bruising Offensive Line
One of those "better" guards in the 2014 NFL Draft I mentioned above was Gabe Jackson. Drafted a whole round later than Su'a-Filo, Jackson is a part of an exceptional O-Line over in Oakland.
Graded as the third best O-Line by PFF, narrowly behind the Eagles and Cowboys, the Raiders have talent across the line. They boast bookend tackles in Donald Penn and Menelik Watson, mammoth guards in Kelechi Osmele and Gabe Jackson, and they’re anchored by center Rodney Hudson. They been blocking well in all phases of the game.
The Raiders are averaging 4.8 yards per carry, third best in the league. They have broken off for eleven runs of 20+ yards. The rushing game is the area the Texans have struggled defending most this season without J.J. Watt. Those struggles are likely to continue this week.
How will the Texans stop Oakland’s impressive rushing attack from pounding them all game long?
4. Estadio Azteca
At around 7,200 feet in elevation, the site of Monday night’s game comes in at 2,000 feet higher than the famed Mile High Stadium in Denver. The effect that could have from a conditioning standpoint may have a major bearing on the outcome of the game. A defense that’s already struggling to get off the field may end up even more gassed than normal at this altitude.
Luckily for us, despite this being an away game, there may be a vocal segment of the crowd that’s in favour of the Texans. Whether or not this actually effects our level of performance or not, I don't know, but we have definitely been better in front of a friendly crowd. On the other hand, we have been pretty terrible in front of a national audience. Swings and roundabouts, eh?
How do you think the Texans will perform this time out? Will we see an improvement, or the same floundering on the road? Have your say below.