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Texans-Raiders Preview: Houston Offense Should Have A Field Day

Let the flood gates open.

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JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO

A lot has changed since the Texans last played the Raiders in 2017 in the Wild Card Round of the AFC Playoffs.

[NAME REDACTED] was the QB for the Texans and the Raiders were forced to play third-string QB Connor Cook.

Jadeveon Clowney had his memorable tip drill interception.

Khalil Mack terrorized the Texans’ offense.

Brian Cushing had a memorable game, recording 1.5 tackles for loss.

A.J. Bouye (please come back) grabbed a clutch interception.

Though there’s a lot of new faces on both sides, one thing remains the same—the Texans should dominate the Raiders this week. Houston is the superior team on both sides of the ball. More specifically, the mismatch that Texans fans should be salivating at and rejiggering their fantasy lineup for is the Texans’ offense against the Raiders’ defense. Oakland’s defense allows 376.5 yards per game, which is the ninth most in the league. This is probably the worst defense the Texans will face the rest of the season. The black mark against the silver and black is their pass defense, which allows 289.8 yards through the air per game. They’ve also allowed 16 touchdowns through six games.

The Raiders’ defense features a 4-3 nickel scheme with minimal pass rush and typically a single high safety. The Raiders blitz less than almost every team in the league. In 2018, the Raiders only blitzed on 3rd down 21% of the time, which was the second least in the NFL. Without Khalil Mack, I bet those numbers are even lower as the Raiders don’t even try to get to the QB.

The mantra will be, “If they are going to sit back with seven defenders, might as well give them five receivers to try to cover.” If Oakland intends to let Deshaun Watson take his time and find his targets, this game will be over in a hurry.

Even without Will Fuller V sprinting down the sideline, the Texans’ weapons outclass the Raiders’ secondary across the board. Especially with the Raiders trading away one of their starting corners (to Houston, no less), the Texans should challenge the Raiders down the field throughout the game.

The Raiders plan to roll out rookie Trayvon Mullen from Clemson as a starting cornerback in place of Gareon Conley. I was a huge fan Mullen coming out of Clemson. He’s a long and hard-nosed corner who is scrappy enough to contest jump balls with the best receivers. Mullen is a press-technique type of player, so a match-up against the Texans’ shifty Keke Coutee could be one to watch. I doubt they’d put Mullen on DeAndre Hopkins. It will most likely be veteran Daryl Worley who gets that honor.

Last week, the Packers had a ton of success with their running backs catching passes. Look for Duke Johnson to be utilized heavily this week as the Texans exploit the Raiders’ slow middle linebackers. The Texans already tend to shift Duke Johnson out into the wide side of the field when they go five wide, so expect to see Deshaun Watson all alone in the backfield with a ton of options down the field.

Stat of the day: SIX Packers recorded a play of over 20 yards against the Raiders. Even Jimmy Graham looked like he was back with New Orleans catching passes from Drew Brees. Since the Raiders have their own version of Darren Fells with Hard Knocks sensation Darren Waller, I’d expect the Raiders to have a good sense of how to handle Fells. Other than that, the Texans’ combination of pass catchers should prove to be too much for the Raiders’ defense come Sunday.

Is this all bulletin board material for the Raiders’ defense? Sure, but from the looks of it, they sure do need it. Houston certainly needs a boost after the gut-wrenching loss to the Colts (again), and the Raiders could be just the team to provide that.