There are several reasons to believe that we could see the Raiders control the ground game tonight very much like they did in their prime time explosion over the Broncos last game. In that game, the Raiders pinpointed the Broncos’ weakness and keyed upon it.
We’re not talking just about the Raiders putting up 218 yards on the ground. We’re also talking about the defense holding the Broncos to 33 yards rushing.
There are a lot of reasons to believe this situation can play itself out again.
Last week, Latavius Murray ran for 114 yards and 3 touchdowns, with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington splitting carries to pick up the other 104 yards.
The Raiders attacked the Broncos on the ground because that’s where they were vulnerable. The Broncos had the NFL’s top ranked pass defense and 23rd ranked run defense coming into the game.
The Texans have the NFL’s third ranked pass defense and 26th ranked run defense.
Both the Broncos and the Texans are weak along the defensive line and at middle linebacker. The Broncos lost Malik Jackson in the offseason and then lost Vance Walker to injury. They also lost Danny Trevathan at middle linebacker. The Texans trio of DJ Reader, Vince Wilfork, and Christian Covington is one of the weakest interior defensive lines in the league and they are backed by a mediocre Brian Cushing.
Also consider the game will be played at an extreme elevation (7,400 feet) in thin air in Mexico City. The key in such conditions will be depth. The Raiders run three and even four deep at running back with Murray, Richard, Washington, and Jamize Olawale.
The Texans have a fantastic back in Lamar Miller, but they will be without their second back Alfred Blue and third back Jonathan Grimes. Two weeks ago, the Broncos were without rushing leader CJ Anderson and the Raiders held rookie Devontae Booker to his worst output of the season (22 yards, 2.2 ypc).
One team can rotate quality backs in and out while the other team will have their top back and a backup in Akeem Hunt who played his first game of the season last week and has a career total 25 carries for 148 yards.
At that elevation, it will be even more important to establish the running game and keep pushing it. The Raiders already have considerable advantage with their offensive line vs the Texans’ defensive line and that advantage only stands to increase as the game progresses.
That being said, the Raiders interior defensive line is nothing special either. Dan Williams has not looked great this season and Mario Edwards Jr is still not back in the lineup as the team had hoped by this week. The good news is they look to have Stacy McGee back, who has been their best interior lineman this season. That interior line has been on a rotation all season with Denico Autry, Justin Ellis, Darius Latham, and Jihad Ward all seeing significant time.