This week the Raiders wrap up what has been a brutal stretch of five consecutive road games. The good news is with a win on Sunday they could end that span with a 3-2 record, many would consider that a great accomplishment.
It won’t be easy, however. The Houston Texans, who have been inconsistent at times, have proved they can go toe to toe with some of the better teams in the league. In week one, they lost a hard-fought game 30-28 to the New Orleans Saints, and just two weeks ago, they beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead.
As the playoff picture currently stands, the Texans hold the final wildcard spot. The Raiders are in the seventh position so that this game could play a major role in the development of the playoff race down the road.
For the Raiders to pull off the upset victory in Houston, they are going to have to win the key matchups in the game.
Let’s take a look at this week’s three key matchups.
Raiders edge rushers against Texans right tackle
The Texans have issues at right tackle. Rookie first-round pick, Tytus Howard will miss his third consecutive game with a slightly torn MCL. His backup swing tackle, Roderick Johnson is dealing with a neck injury he suffered last week. Johnson is listed as questionable.
If Johnson is ruled out, the next man up is newly signed, Dan Skipper. Skipper was signed off the Patriots practice squad and has been with the Texans a little over a week.
If there were ever a week for the Raiders pass rush to heat up the quarterback, this would be the week. The Texans offensive line is improved with Laremy Tunsil holding down the left tackle spot, but the line ranks ninth in most sacks allowed with 21.
Raiders run defense against Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson
For Bill O’Brien and the Texans offense, it all starts with the run game. Much like Jon Gruden, O’Brien has an old school philosophy of wanting to establish a physical tone with the run game.
It will be a matchup of strengths, the Raiders run defense ranks fifth in the league (86.7 yds/game), and the Texans run game ranks eighth averaging 134.1 yards per game. Carlos Hyde has 461 yards and three touchdowns on the season.
Raiders secondary against Texans secondary
This may not be ahead to head matchup, but the secondary for each team will play a crucial role in the game. Both secondaries have been poor to put it nicely. The Raiders give up 290 yards a game through the air, and the Texans allow 276.
The Texans have three members of their back end listed as questionable: cornerback’s Bradley Roby, Johnathan Joesph, and safety Tashaun Gipson Jr. To make things even more interesting this week, the Raiders and Texans completed a trade sending Gareon Conley to the Texans. Conley is expected to step in immediately and play meaningful snaps this week against his former team.
The talk out of Raider headquarters is that it will be rookie second-round pick, Trayvon Mullin, who gets the first crack at the starting job opposite of Daryl Worley. Expect the Texans to test Mullin early and often as the rookie makes his first start in the NFL.