It will be an interesting Week 7 matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans this Sunday. The Raiders are led by veterans and looking to build off last season’s playoff appearance while the Texans are young and in rebuilding mode, but both teams currently have one win a piece. The good news for Las Vegas is our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook have the veteran squad as touchdown favorites heading into the game.
To preview the matchup, Scott Barzilla of Battle Red Blog was kind enough to answer my questions about the Texans for Raider Nation.
Question: Last year, it felt like there was some optimism about Davis Mills potentially being the Texans’ quarterback of the future. However, that tune seems to have changed and the chatter under center in Houston seems to have turned to Bryce Young and CJ Stroud. What’s been the difference between Mills as a rookie and Mills in Year 2, or is the latter just outside noise?
A: I’d say the biggest difference has been the changes in coaching. Pep Hamilton and Lovie Smith have really used him conservatively and restrained the offense in general to limit turnovers. Of course, the million-dollar question is whether they know something we don’t or whether they’d treat any quarterback that way.
I tend to think it’s a little of both. I think Mills and the offense would be better under people more imaginative, but I also think his flaws would be more exposed than they are now. In general, he has accuracy issues at times and struggles under pressure. He lacks the athleticism to make plays off schedule, so he has to process things quickly in order to succeed. I think that’s possible, but he has a ceiling that is reminiscent of Andy Dalton.
Q: Rookie running back Dameon Pierce has taken the league by storm. Can you tell us what he brings to the Texans’ offense, and is he the focal point of the offense already?
A: Pierce is just a tough guy to bring down. He leads the league in broken tackles and yards after contact. He also has surprising speed. The offense shifted during the Jaguars game and he got 26 carries. That’s an indication that they are ready to ride him as far as he’ll take them.
Q: Brandin Cooks recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in his two years with the Texans but is on pace to be just shy of 800 yards in 2022. What’s been the difference between this year and the previous campaigns? Is he not playing as well or does it have more to do with the offense’s struggles as a whole?
A: Cooks has dropped a couple of touchdowns that could have won another game or two, but otherwise other teams just aren’t worried about anyone else beating them. They can easily double him and make the other targets win one on one battles. Nico Collins has developed into a decent threat, but otherwise, it’s a winning strategy.
A better offensive coordinator could find ways to unlock Cooks, but we are who we are. I think Cooks will eventually have a big game or two because he’s too good not to. Yet, most teams will find ways to lock him down.
Q: The Texans’ secondary is highlighted by a couple of rookies in cornerback Derek Stingley and safety Jalen Pitre. How have the young bucks been able to impact the defensive backfield so far this season?
A: They have three interceptions and a couple of sacks between them. Obviously, they make their fair share of mistakes, but they are keepers that could grow into Pro Bowlers sooner rather than later.
Pitre might impact the game more now because of his versatility. He can play in the box and play as a more traditional safety as well. Lovie Smith has used Stingley primarily in zone coverage. Another DC would use him as a potential lockdown corner. Who knows how that would turn out? I’d suspect he’d get burned some, but he’d also make a few more plays. Texans fans are excited to see what these two players will become.
Q: DraftKings Sportsbook has a weekly special for this game where Davante Adams putting up more than 150 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns is a +1100 payout. He got close to that in the Raiders’ last game against the Chiefs with 124 yards and two touchdowns, so do you think the Texans’ defense can keep him in check, or are those odds too good to pass up?
A: That’s an interesting question. I don’t know how they will play him. I could see them matching Stingley up with him and simply rotating a safety over to help. Either way, I see 200 yards rushing from the Raiders as far more likely. The Texans routinely get gashed on the ground and if they focus on taking Adams away I don’t see how they can stop the run consistently. Maybe go with the over on Jacobs getting to 100 yards rushing. I’d have to imagine the odds would be good and I like that play more.