The Houston Texans go to sin city to battle the Las Vegas Raiders this Sunday in a battle that could determine which of these teams will return to contention in their divisions. We were lucky enough to catch up with Matt Holder of Silver and Black Pride to get a look behind the scenes at this week’s matchup. We started off our conversation looking at why the Raiders have struggled so far this year as they are 1-4 coming into the game.
The Raiders added Devante Adams and were a playoff team last season. What would you attribute their early season struggles to?
That’s the million-dollar question in Las Vegas right now. The Raiders’ biggest opponent this season has been themselves. Whether it’s not playing complementary football or just making stupid mistakes that end up costing them the game, they haven’t been able to avoid the self-inflicted errors that lead to losses.
I also think continuity has played a big factor. We all assumed Adams and Derek Carr would pick up right where they left off at Fresno State and they, and the rest of the roster, would have no problems picking up the new playbooks, but that was clearly something we overlooked. Also, Carr is still finding the balance between peppering Adams with targets and spreading the wealth while the defense has dealt with several injuries already.
Who are some players on offense and defense we might not know about, but you think will play a big role on Sunday?
Linebacker Denzel Perryman and wide receiver Mack Hollins.
You guys might know about Perryman as he was a Pro Bowler last year after ranking sixth in the league for total tackles. He’s a great run defender and a sure tackler, so I’m hoping he’ll be the one to keep Dameon Pierce in check. Hollins has been around for a while but he’s having by far the most productive season of his career as his 17 catches for 273 yards are already career-highs. With Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller being somewhat underwhelming through five games, Hollins has emerged as Carr’s no. 2 target and is a great red zone threat with his contested catch skills.
The Texans are obviously in search of their QB of the future. The Raiders have Derek Carr. Do you see him as a franchise quarterback or something a little less? Do you think he can lead you to the top of the AFC West?
Yes, under the condition that the situation is good around him. Carr has been the Raiders’ starter since he entered the league nine years ago, and he’s proven that he can lead a team that has a lot of talent around him, but he’s also proven that he’s not on the Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen or Aaron Rodgers level that can elevate the play of everyone around him. The fanbase is split on Carr but personally, I think he’s far from the problem and should be the guy for the near future. That being said, his leash is getting shorter as the years go by.
Speaking of the AFC West, experts said it was the best division in the NFL. As an insider, how do you see the division playing out this season? Have any of the other three teams surprised you to this point?
I’ve honestly been surprised by all four teams as the AFC West is not what a lot of people, myself included, thought it would be. Obviously, the Raiders’ 1-4 start has been disappointing but I’d argue the Broncos are in worse shape with how bad Russell Wilson has been playing and how in over his head Nathaniel Hackett looks. Despite all of the changes in the offseason, the Los Angeles Chargers continue to Charger as injuries have been the storyline to their season, and they continue to have head-scratching performances like losing by 28 points to the Jaguars.
I also thought the Chiefs would struggle to adjust to life without Tyreek Hill to at least start the season, but Mahomes hasn’t skipped a beat and they’re rolling. It’s looking like Kansas City is going to run away with the division crown, again.
The DraftKings Sportsbook has the Raiders favored by seven points. How do you see the game playing out? Would you put your money on the Raiders? Are there any other bets you’d feel comfortable making?
I actually have a rule to never bet on or against the Raiders because I’ve been burned by them so many times in the past. But if I’m just giving advice, I’d say to take the Texans with the points. I’m honestly surprised the line is that high as the only that the Raiders have proved so far this season is they’re capable of finding just about every way to lose a game. I think they will still win on Sunday but the smart bet is to take the points, in my opinion.
We want to thank Matt for joining us this week and for giving us an inside look at the Raiders so far on the year. You can follow Matt’s work at our sister site Silver and Black Pride and can also follow him on Twitter @MHolder95. We want to wish Matt and the Raiders the best of luck this year. That’s after Sunday of course.