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Texans-Raiders Preview: Five Things to Watch For

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Matt Weston gives you everything you need to watch for during Lunes Noches Futbol against the Oakland Raiders.

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Usually this is a fun and raucous opening paragraph but, I don’t know about you, watching the Texans against good teams on primetime does not give me reason for optimism or excitement. The Patriots blanked them with a third string quarterback. In Brock Osweiler’s homecoming game in Denver, he threw a fumble farther than his average pass attempt. I was skeptical about the Raiders until their win over Denver. Before that game, they were 5-1 in one-possession games, beating New Orleans, Tennessee, Baltimore, San Diego, and Tampa Bay by a touchdown or less. Their only win that wasn’t close was against the all-purr, no-scratch Jacksonville Jaguars. Then Oakland went out and just ran all over the Broncos in what may be a season-defining win. After that, I have been converted. The Raiders are good.

Now, tomorrow night, the Texans get another chance to beat a good team on the road. The Raiders will attempt to keep piling up the wins needed in a vicious AFC West that’s going to send three teams to the playoffs.

GOLPEALO!

1.) Mantener Ese Carr En Las Líneas Laterales

There are three things Houston either needs to do individually, or a combination of, to beat Oakland. The first is they need to keep Oakland’s offense on the sidelines. The Chiefs beat the Raiders 26-10 on a slip and slide three weeks ago. Kansas City did this by running the ball. By running the ball a lot. In that game, Kansas City ran the ball 40 times for 183 yards and 3 touchdowns. Spencer Ware had 24 carries and Jamaal Charles had 9 carries. Together, they ran the ball over every part of the line of scrimmage with success.

This kept the Raiders’ fourth ranked offense (according to DVOA) off the field. Oakland ran 51 plays compared to the Chiefs’ 63. Oakland went down 20-10, made Derek Carr throw the ball, and forced him to throw short a lot. As a result, the Chiefs were able to win that very important game.

For the Texans to win, they will need to do something similar. They are going to have to do what they have had to do all year. They are going to need to run the ball consistently. They’ll need to pick up drive-sustaining chunks. Not only to keep the Raiders’ offense off the field, but to make sure Brock Osweiler is relied on as little as possible. They need to play 2015 “Oh crap, Brandon Weeden and T.J. Yates are our quarterbacks” football. Osweiler has been the worst quarterback in the NFL this season. The run game is going to have to carry the offense to make sure he doesn’t throw incompletions and interceptions. The Texans need prevent short drives. The need to keep Derek Carr and his Good Charlotte eyeliner on the sideline.

Houston could potentially do this. The Raiders have a bad run defense, and if Houston gets Lamar Miller in space, he should be able to have way with these scurvy scallywags. Maybe if that happens, maybe if they do what the Chiefs did, the Texans could win this game.

2.) Presión Carr

The Texans have the pass defense to do that, maybe? The only great receiver with a capable quarterback the Texans have faced this year is T.Y. Hilton. He had three catches for just 49 yards. The Texans haven’t faced a passing attack this good yet, and who knows how well Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, and the surprising and excellent A.J. Bouye will do against Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper? The Texans’ secondary has been the best part of this team, and they are going to have to rely on them to try and keep the Raiders’ excellent pass offense shackled. If Crabtree and Cooper are covered in one-on-one match-ups, Carr gets antsy. He has problems finding his later reads. He will scurry from the pocket or throw the ball away. The Texans need to cover Cooper and Crabtree to force Carr to find his complementary options.

The thing is that I still am dubious about Bouye and the secondary really being as good as they have looked. As mentioned earlier, they have faced only one great WR-QB combo. I don’t think the Texans are going to be able to stop Cooper and Crabtree. If that is to happen, the Texans’ pass rush will need to step up. Romeo Crennel has done an admirable job manufacturing a pass rush without J.J. Watt by using interior rushes. That’s not going to work against Oakland. They have the best interior pass blocking line in the NFL. For them to get pressure, it will need to come from the exterior. Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus must get consistent pressure and force Carr to scramble in fear as he’s prone to do. Austin Howard is the weak spot on the right side, and Donald Penn can be beat on the left with speed rushes.

Carr has problems with the rush. If Houston buzzes around his face and doesn’t allow him to play five M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I backyard football, Oakland’s passing offense will stall. But again, there is a problem. The Raiders are second in pressure rate and first in adjusted sack rate. They have allowed only eleven sacks, and Houston has had problems with their defensive line beating one-on-one blocks.

3.) Pare El Juego De Oakland Run

The Texans’ run defense has been bleeding all over the place, squirting dark and opaque arterial blood without J.J. Watt in the lineup. They are 24th in run defense DVOA and have been leaking over every part of the line of scrimmage except where Clowney plays. They tried to fix things by starting Joel Heath over Christian Covington; Covington ended up playing more snaps than Heath anyway, so that tells you all you need to know as far as that project went. D.J. Reader started for the injured Vince Wilfork against the Jaguars, who have nonexistent interior run blocking, so there isn’t much to read into there.

The last time Oakland played a defense that stopped the run around the level of Houston, it was against Denver. The Raiders went heavy and used six behemoths to bash skulls and trounce the Broncos. Their line snuffed out the mean horseys’ will to live. They pancaked them and drove them back, leaving defenders splattered and splayed across the box. The Raiders turned every run into a highway vehicular collision. In that game, Oakland ran the ball 43 times for 218 yards and 3 touchdowns.

This is the biggest challenge for Houston in this game. I think they can run the ball against Oakland. I think they could potentially be able to stop the passing game. But I don’t see a way for them to shut down Oakland’s run offense. The teams who were playing really good football that beat Houston got off to leads early and forced Brock Osweiler to throw. If that happens in this game, against Oakland’s run game, the casket will be closed shut like a refrigerator door.

4.) Viva México

This game is taking place in Mexico City. That’s pretty neat. I’ve always wanted to go to Mexico. I’ve heard about the rough and wild times some of my friends’ dads have had down there. I read Cormac McCarthy’s border trilogy. I’ve been to Big Bend and laid by the Rio Grande staring at it while it breathed and pulsated. But the fear of drug wars and policia have kept me north of the border being a good boy.

Like going down to Mexico for us civilians and honest hard working folk, playing football in Mexico has its own tribulations. The first is the elevation. Mexico City is in a valley surrounded by plateaus. It’s elevation is 7,350 feet. It’s way, way, way up there, an entirely different place than Oakand and Houston are. The other is that Mexico City is densly populated and highly polluted. All those people living in a trapped valley keeps the smog stuck around in a noxious haze. Weird things could happen in this game. Whoever doesn’t drink the water, or has their star player kidnapped (please don’t take Brock Osweiler, I’ll do anything! I’ll pay an enormous ransom to bring him back!), or is merely the best conditioned could be the difference if things are close.

5.) Por Favor Juega Bien Contra Un Buen Equipo

I don’t care if Houston wins this game. I really don’t. This may sound blasphemous since this is a Texans website that rides the roller coaster that is Texans’ fandom. Give me a second. Let me finish my thoughts. I’m not done talking yet.

I just want to see this team, a team we waited two seasons to see, with such high expectations, a team that has been absolutely trounced and demolished three times this season, play a close and tough game against another team that is playing great. That’s all I ask. I just want to see them play well against one of the best offenses in the NFL. If that happens, I’ll feel better entering the rest of the season where Houston still has to play San Diego, Cincinnati, Green Bay, and take care of business against the rest of the AFC South. If the Texans don’t play a close game tomorrow night, I’ll just hang around through it all and wait until they either blow the division or get their teeth yanked one by one, placed in a bowl of milk, and get it fed back to them in the playoffs.