This week the Houston Texans host the Oakland Raiders. These two teams will be much more similar without Andre Johnson around. The ground-and-pound mentality of the Raiders will be the primary course of action for the Texans as well. In my correspondence with Chris Shellcroft of the Oakland Raiders blog Just Blog Baby Chris revealed what he believes will be the keys to this week’s match-up.
#1 – Last week the Raiders lost, at home, to the New England Patriots. What must they do this week in order to defeat the Houston Texans while on the road?
Offensively the Raiders just need to do what they do best which is run the rock. Without two costly turnovers against the Pats it could have been a much closer contest last Sunday to that is an important area as well. However it is all about Oakland’s defense. Unable to stop the run. Incapable of defending the pass. The silver and black defense is black and blue. They’re giving up almost 6-yards per rush and haven’t held an opponent below 20 points so far this season. As entertaining as it is to watch a shootout it is by no means a recipe for winning consistently in the NFL.
#2 – The Texans’ new 3-4 defense has been notoriously mediocre against the run game. They have allowed 153 yards of rushing for Miami, 100 yards for New Orleans, and 180 yards for Pittsburgh. What type of performance do you expect to see out of Darren McFadden who has been averaging 156 yards per game?
Sounds like the Texans have a lot of the same problems the Raiders do when it comes to stopping the run. Could make a lot of Arian Foster and Darren McFadden fantasy owners happy come Sunday. Truth be told the Oakland offensive line is quietly having a great season. Jason Campbell has been sacked twice this year and one of those was because he and Run DMC got their feet tangled. With the way the line is playing I see no reason why McFadden wouldn’t have another standpoint performance. McFadden is reaching that level where no matter the opponent he’s going to get his. Aside from running the rock he’s also a great weapon on screens and pass plays. In all honesty I’d be surprised if there isn’t so mention of his name in the MVP circle this season.
#3 – With Andre Johnson out and the Texans running back corps getting thin, how do you expect the Raiders defensive coordinator, Chuck Bresnahan, to plan for this game?
As great as Andre Johnson is his presence won’t be missed too much by the Texans – at least not against the Raiders. For Chuck B it’s all about stopping the run. Last week Stevan Ridley ran all over Oakland. Arian Foster and company have got to be more excited than Brett Favre with a Hall Pass from his wife and Jenn Sterger on speed dial. The latest rumor is that Richard Seymour will slide to the outside and Big John Henderson will be inserted into the starting lineup to play inside with Tommy Kelly. Henderson is Oakland’s best run stuffer so he could be a factor. Aside from that Rolando McClain has got to get more consistent and Tyvon Branch needs to make more plays at the line of scrimmage.
#4 – Which match-up do you think will be the one to watch in this game? Why?
I’d have to say the trench battle is where this game will be lost and won. Whichever team owns the line of scrimmage will come out on top. I’m guessing we’ll see an old school type of game as both teams have dominant offensive lines. Hue Jackson’s motto has been “Building a Bully” and the O-line takes pride in pushing guys around on Sundays. When you run the ball you do more than just chew up the clock, you also demoralize the defense. There are no secrets in the running game. So when a team knows what’s coming but can’t defend it the mental aspect begins to takeover as the physical abuse builds. Foster and McFadden will both factor heavily in who emerges with a victory. But the real deciding factor will be found in the battle of the big uglies.
#5 – If the Raiders lose this game do you think they still have a chance of winning their division?
Thankfully the Raiders play in the AFC West. In recent years 9 wins has been good enough to secure a home game in the first round of the playoffs so a loss on Sunday is by no means the end of the world for Oakland. That being said these are the measuring stick games that teams need to build momentum. Thus far it has been an up and down season as a loss follows a win follows a win after a loss. The Raiders need to get into a groove and sometimes the best place to build unity is on the road when that “Us against the world” mentality kicks in.