When looking at the playoffs two weeks ago, I was expecting Kansas City to go to Houston in this game and dominate like they did in last year’s 31-0 playoff win. On the way to what seemed like an inevitable matchup suddenly changed, as the Raiders lost starting QB Derek Carr to a broken fibula and the Raiders laid down in front of the Denver Broncos. So instead of the Chiefs possibly routing the Texans again we have an interesting(Notice I did NOT say exciting) matchup between the Raiders and Texans. So let’s take a look at both teams.
Houston Texans- From the final gun in Mexico City eight weeks ago where they lost a close game to Oakland to today the Houston defense has stiffened considerably. They’ve surrendered more than twenty-one points only once (Week 17 vs. Tennessee). The quality of competition, also increased. Facing Carr, Rivers, Rodgers, Luck, and Dalton in five of your remaining seven games is no easy chore. How did they accomplish this? Tape displays a defense relaxed and at ease. The edges continue to wreak havoc, and the linebackers are making plays. Injuries to the Texans defense could kill the Texans shot at winning this game with four starters on the injured list. LBs Brian Cushing and John Simon, CB Johnathan Joseph, and DE Jadeveon Clowney are up in the air, in regards to Saturday availability. If they play the Texans should win, if they don’t this game becomes a toss up.
Oakland Raiders- The Raiders with one injury went from Super Bowl contender to fighting just to win a playoff game. The biggest problem they have is Connor Cook who does not even qualify as a solid backup QB in the NFL, much less a starter. Connor Cooks biggest traits are glaring mental errors that are a feature of his game. Cook struggles to read coverages, and often seems to lose sight of underneath coverage defenders, resulting in a number of turnovers. Defenders took the football away on seven of Cook’s passes last season, and he had another seven potential interceptions dropped. Throw in the fact that as a senior QB his teammates did not even name him one of their three captains. The Raiders are doomed with Connor Cook at the helm.
Brock Osweiler vs. Raiders’ Pass Rushers
Sometimes in the playoffs you get Brady-Manning, and you treasure those games. But, wait until you see Osweiler vs. Cook, it is a one-time matchup that you will have a hard time forgetting if you can stay awake? Brock Osweiler when given time, has proven to be a decent NFL QB, the problem is if he is pressured he ultimately falls apart. And with the Raiders Khalil Mack in this game, he figures to get pressured.
Connor Cook vs. Texans’ Defense
This will prove to be a mismatch! Cook has a hard time reading defenses and will be hard pressed not to turn the ball over. The Texans appeared done when they lost J.J.Watt, but luckily finally Clowney has lived up to his potential. In his third season, Clowney has at last established himself as a force, making his first Pro Bowl in the process. While he’s had to deal with some nagging injuries, Clowney has recorded 52 tackles, six sacks, and a forced fumble. Besides Clowney, Cook also will have to worry about Whitney Mercilus, who leads Houston with 7.5 sacks.
This is an easy game for me to pick. The Texans are better on defense; they have Lamar Miller running the ball, and Brock Osweiler may not be great, but he is better than Connor Cook. Texans 24 Raiders 13