Levi Damien of our sister site, Silver and Black Pride, is back again to answer all of our questions in advance of tomorrow’s rematch with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders look remarkably different than they did just a couple of months ago, most notably because of the absence of their MVP-caliber quarterback, Derek Carr. Oakland’s backup QB, Matt McGloin, also went down with an injury last week, which means rookie third string quarterback Connor Cook will be tasked with leading the Raiders’ offense against arguably the best defense in the NFL.
That’s a big ask.
Here is what Levi had to say about Oakland’s chances in their first playoff game in over a decade:
1. What can we expect from the Oakland passing offense now that they are down to their second backup quarterback?
That is the question. No one really knows, honestly; Connor Cook wasn't even active on game days prior to last week. I would expect them not to try and put the game on the passing offense. The plan last week was to rely on the run, with the passing game offering just enough to keep the Broncos’ defense honest. The first play of the game, the Broncos had TEN defenders in the box.
They forced McGloin to pass and that plan worked like a charm. It seems they have no choice but to go into this game with the same plan. Trying to put the game on Cook's arm seems unwise. By the way, the last game Cook started was at Michigan State against Alabama's 3rd ranked defense. The Spartans lost 38-0.
2. Donald Penn has been ruled out for this game with a knee injury. How will that impact the Raiders’ offense?
Penn being out is a big shock to everyone. He hadn't missed a game in his entire ten-year career and started 156 straight games. With him out, Menelik Watson will likely move from right tackle to left tackle, with Austin Howard entering the game at right tackle.
As far as impact, it's hard to say. Penn is a Pro Bowler and has been solid much of the season. However, the Raiders have been covering up their tackles with jumbo packages more than any other team this season, which could help mask Watson's deficiencies. He also has Pro Bowl left guard Kelechi Osemele next to him, who played left tackle part of last season for the Ravens. Rookie Vadal Alexander will be the tackle eligible in jumbo packages, a role he has done fairly well in this season.
3. What is your opinion on all of the - let's call them "shenanigans" - that took place the last time these two teams met in Mexico? The referees, the laser pointers, etc...
The laser pointer thing is basically a byproduct of the game being in Mexico. You just don't see that in stadiums in the U.S. And apparently they have damn strong lasers down there too, ‘cuz wow.
I had to look up what the issue was with the officials, and now it's all coming back to me. There were two calls in that game that were controversial - the one in which DeAndre Hopkins was ruled out, and the one in which Lamar Miller was ruled short of the sticks on his run.
The first one was the right call. Hopkins' heel was out. Some would argue the play should not have been blown dead to allow for review. I don't disagree with that, though I'm not really a fan of asking officials to always let things play out and using the review system as a fallback option. That's the purist in me. As for the run, it looked like a pretty obvious first down to me. Looked like a bad call. Even worse that it was reviewed and upheld. I was shocked.
Raiders fans are pretty bad when it comes to conspiracy theories about the officials and the league being out to get the Raiders. On some calls such as the Tuck Rule, there's a legitimate argument to be made for something fishy going on. Had that been the Raiders who were called short on that run, we'd have never heard the end of it.
4. If Oakland wins this game, they will have to either take a road trip to Foxborough or Kansas City next week depending on the outcome to the Dolphins-Steelers matchup. Which team would you rather face right now?
Gotta go with KC. Even with their ownage of the Raiders this season, no one wants to go to Foxborough to play. At least Arrowhead is a familiar place against a familiar division foe. It would be good to get a third crack at them, even without Derek Carr.
5. What is your prediction for this game and why?
I can't find a good reason to believe the Raiders can win this one. Sure, the Raiders defense can probably make things interesting against Osweiler -- they usually do -- but without Derek Carr, the Raiders’ offense is a shell of itself and the Texans’ offensive weapons like Miller and Hopkins will get plenty of chances to break it open. Texans 20, Raiders 13.
Thanks to Levi for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure to head over to Silver and Black Pride to see what Raiders fans think about how they match up with the Texans tomorrow.