The Oakland Raiders may be struggling right now, but on Sunday they travel to Houston to face a Texans team that is riding a seven game losing streak.
Oakland (3-6) enters this game coming off a 24-20 loss at the New York Giants last week. Houston lost to Arizona,
27-24, dropping them to 2-7. Both teams squandered second half leads so this game will be a battle between two teams who struggle in the second half.
Terrelle Pryor is battling a strained knee and was ruled out for the game on Saturday afternoon.The patchwork offensive line has allowed 36 sacks this season due to injuries and have been forced to play people out of position. The Raiders biggest challenge will be to protect undrafted rookie quarterback Matthew McGloin.
McGloin had an impressive preseason, prompting the team to waive fourth round draft pick Tyler Wilson and re-sign him to the practice squad. Wilson will be activated from the practice squad and be the backup QB.
McGloin completed 7 of 15 passes for 87 yards against the Eagles in their 49-20 loss to Philadelphia on November 3rd. He received the bulk of the playing time with the first team offense on Thursday and Friday.
Houston’s JJ Watt isn’t having a great season like he did last year but he’s registered 6.5 sacks, despite increased attention as a pass rusher.
“Defensive Player of the Year, great size strength and speed, and he’s surrounded by great players around him so it makes it difficult to just focus on J.J. Watt,” Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson told Raiders.com.
The Texans allow just 166 yards per game. But, Houston allows 27.6 points per game, which is 28th in the League. So, Oakland will need to run the ball and do it effectively since McGloin will probably be under constant pressure.
Darren McFadden has been ruled out yet again with a hamstring injury but they have a solid replacement in Rashad Jennings. Jennings has averaged 95 ypg (5.4ypc) the last two games with McFadden being hobbled and he’s also been a major help in the passing game. When Pryor can’t find an open wide receiver, Jennings has been his backup option. Jennings has nine receptions for 93 yards.
Case Keenum has replaced TJ Yates after he failed to have much more success than incumbent quarterback Matt Schaub. He’s an undrafted rookie QB out of Houston who has shown some promise this season. He hasn’t proven to be the most accurate passer (completing just 55% of his attempts) but he’s throwing for 240 yards per game (8.1 yards per attempt), seven touchdowns and hasn’t thrown an interception in 102 passes.
Oakland will need to get pressure from the front seven and rattle the rookie. If they do that, he could throw some bad passes and give the veterans in the secondary a chance to get some turnovers. Cornerback Tracy Porter leads the team with two INT’s and returned a pick-6 last week against the Giants when he intercepted Eli Manning’s throw.
“He has a big arm,” Porter told Raiders.com. “He’s a guy that’s a little bit more mobile than the other two quarterbacks that they have, so it’s going to take us staying in coverage longer and playing through the receiver more than not because he’s going to put the ball up there and those guys do a great job attacking the ball. We can’t get lax in our coverages and take a down off.”
The Texans have their own injury concerns since Arian Foster is out for the year and they’ll be going with Ben Tate as his replacement. The Raiders 7th ranked run defense will need to step up and stop the run, forcing Keenum to try and win his first NFL start with his arm. Tate has a nice 4.4ypc average, but he hasn’t been effective since he’s become the full time running back. He’s averaging just 62.3ypg and 3.6ypc in the last three games since he’s become the primary runner.
If they want to win this game, they need to reverse a trend this season. Oakland has started strongly this season, they have had a lead early in six of their nine games this season. They need to learn how to maintain their momentum and develop a killer instinct.
“I think playing aggressive, physical football and taking the ball on defense and keeping it on offense and just finishing [are keys],” safety Usama Young told Raiders.com. “We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve started out on top, but we haven’t come out with the victory because we haven’t finished in the second half. So I think that’s going to be a major key to us winning, maintaining the football and at the same time playing sound throughout the entire game so that we can come through with a victory and take a nice flight back to Oakland.”
Prediction: Texans win, 24-13.
Houston leads the all-time series between the two teams, 5-2. The Raiders won the last time they played, 25-20, in Houston.
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