Houston Texans (6-3) vs Oakland Raiders (7-2)
8:30pm ET on ESPN
Oh, look – they’re playing in Mexico! Tonight’s game between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders is beamed to your living room all the way from Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. It’s just the second time an NFL game will have been played here, the last one being 31-14 win for the Arizona Cardinals over the San Francisco 49ers in 2005. The biggest foe the two teams confront might not be each other, it might be the wind-sucking combination of altitude and pollution, as Azteca Stadium sits at 7,200 feet above sea level, nearly 2,000 feet higher than Denver’s Mile High Stadium, and it’s in one of North America’s most polluted cities.
Hats off to the Houston Texans, who’ve managed to be outscored by 27 points this season while still winning two-thirds of their games. Making it all the more impressive is that they’ve done it with Brock Osweiler, and without JJ Watt. Last week’s 24-21 win over the Jaguars was a gift, thanks largely to Blake Bortles throwing a pick-6 on the Jags’ first possession of the game. If not for that play, the Texans likely would’ve lost, as the Jags gained more yards, got called for half as many penalty yards, converted more 3rd downs and controlled time of possession. Osweiler remains one of the league’s most underwhelming passers, ranking 29th in both passer rating and QBR, and in the bottom third of essentially every passing stat that matters: completion %, yards, interceptions, yards per attempt and net yards per attempt… One shudders to think what kind of shape these guys would be in without running back Lamar Miller, who’s headed into Week 11 at 7th in the NFL with 720 yards rushing. Without the defense, these guys would be in the cellar. Even without Watt, the Texans have held opponent to the fourth-fewest yards (317.4), including the third-fewest passing yards (194.3), and the sixth-lowest completion percentage. Basically, the Texans defense turns opponents into Brock Osweiler. They are, however, suspect against the run, giving up 1,086 yards and 10 TDs. Basically, the Texans defense turns opponents into Lamar Miller on steroids.
The Oakland Raiders showed again two weeks ago that they have one of the most potent and balanced offenses in the league, beating the Denver Broncos 30-20, and gaining 397 total yards, the most Denver’s vaunted D have surrendered all season, and it took just under 16 minutes for the Raiders to build a 13-0 lead. Denver’s secondary managed to contain Oakland QB Derek Carr, holding him to just 184 yards on 20-of-31 passing and zero TDs, but Oakland responded by rushing 43 times for 218 yards and 3 TDs, as Latavius Murray led the charge with 114 yards and all 3 touchdowns. Carr (66%, 2,505 yds, 17 TD) along with wide receivers Amari Cooper (843 yds) and Michael Crabtree (596 yds, 6 TD), have been outstanding, but the running game has very quietly been among the best units in the league with 1,150 yards and 11 TD, both in the top 5, but there’s not a lot of talk about it ‘cuz it’s been a “by committee” effort with Latavius Murray rushing for 393 yards and 8 TD, DeAndre Washington rsuhing for 302 yards, and Jalen Richard chipping in with 279 yards and a touchdown, while collectively fumbling just once. Cooper suffered a back injury against Denver, but has had a bye week to recover and should suit up for tonight’s game. On defense the Raiders are susceptible to good QBs, giving up 419 yards to Drew Brees, 389 to Matt Ryan, and 351 to Philip Rivers, but keeping a lid on the rest of the league with an average of 232 ypg through the air and just 20.5 ppg. They will not be facing a good QB tonight.
The Raiders probably aren’t as good as their record suggests, but they are a legitimately good team that no one wants to face in the playoffs, while the Texans are nowhere near as good as their record – in fact they’re record is probably more out of whack with their true talent level than any team in the league. Houston simply doesn’t have the weapons on offense to exploit the Raiders’ defensive deficiencies, and their defense isn’t strong enough or versatile enough to deal with the five-pronged attack that Derek Carr can marshal.
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