The first NFL playoff game of the year will feature a matchup between the Raiders and Texans. This game is a rematch of a week 11 affair where the Raiders defeated the Texans 27-20 in Mexico City. That Raiders team is obviously very different from this version as they will be without MVP candidate Derek Carr. The 12-4 Raiders will be on the road in this one despite having the better record. The 9-7 Texans get home field via winning the AFC South. What are the keys to the game for each team in order to advance this postseason? For more on the rest of the playoff teams, click here!
12-4 Oakland Raiders At 9-7 Houston Texans
Saturday, January 7th, 2017 4:35 p.m ET: ESPN
Spread > Oakland +3.5 – Under/Over 37
WHY The Oakland Raiders Will Win:
- Brock Osweiler Can’t Win A Playoff Game Right?
Let’s not over think this one. Brock Osweiler isn’t winning a playoff game. Brock Osweiler is the only quarterback to average less than 6 yards per pass this season. The $72 million signing this offseason couldn’t have worked out worse. It makes you wonder where Osweiler is mentally as well. Don’t forget this guy was benched in week 15. He wouldn’t even be starting this game if it weren’t for a Tom Savage concussion that occurred in week 17. Houston had a mere 25 touchdowns all season which is by far the lowest of any playoff team. This Texans offense is just historically inferior regards to other playoff bound teams. Houston ranked 30th on offense according to Pro Football Outsiders which measures advanced metrics (DVOA -18.5 weighted offense). They also even ranked 31st in red-zone offense meaning they don’t convert on their chances even when they do get into the red-zone. The Texans frankly aren’t a very good team. They were outscored on the season by 49 points; the worst of any playoff team. Let’s not forget that there is a heap of pressure on Houston right now. Head coach Bill O’Brien could part ways with the team if the Texans fall. For a team that has a hard time scoring, how is Houston favored by 3.5 points?
Brock Osweiler has struggled to find the Texans' top target on plays downfield. pic.twitter.com/Rjr59QrEdN
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 5, 2017
2. Oakland Has The Best Offensive Line In The AFC:
The Raiders did just get some shoddy news that all pro left tackle Donald Penn will miss the game due to a knee injury. The loss of Penn hurts, but the solace is they do have a capable option in Menelik Watson to replace him. The rest of the offensive line is dominant. Kelechi Osemele is the 2nd rated guard in the NFL. Center Rodney Hudson and right guard Gabe Jackson are also adequate. The Raiders graded as the 2nd best offensive line in football according to Pro Football Focus. Not only do the Raiders have the better offensive line, but they also have a superior overall roster. Football is a game won in the trenches. Raiders gave up only 18 sacks all season which is the lowest in NFL. In a battle of underwhelming offenses, I trust the Raiders to run the ball and control the clock thanks in part to their dominant offensive line. If the Raiders do need a big play, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have been a great duo on the outside all year.
3. The Raiders Have A Big Edge On Special Teams:
In a game that is expected to be low scoring, field position is important. The Texans are the worst special teams unit in football according to Pro Football Outsiders. Oakland ranked 11th in the same category. The Raiders have the prime punter in football with Marquette King who averaged 48.6 yards per punt (2nd in NFL). Everyone knows that Sebastian Janikowski is capable of hitting a couple of 50+ yard field goals as well. Houston’s kicker Nick Novak has even missed a few extra points this year hitting 88 percent of his extra point tries. Don’t be surprised if return man Jalen Richard busts one loose. The Texans really struggle covering punts and kicks. Look at that, I just gave three reasons the Raiders will win and haven’t even gotten to Khalil Mack!
Read About The Raiders Playoff X-Factor HERE!
WHY The Houston Texans Will Win:
- Connor Cook Can’t Win A Playoff Game Right?
Let’s face it, losing Derek Carr for the season is heartbreaking. Carr was my NFL MVP at the midseason point. Without Carr, the Raiders are a shell of themselves. Not only will the Raiders rely on a backup quarterback but they are down to their third-string quarterback after Matt McGloin injured his shoulder. Oakland is now down to rookie 4th round pick Connor Cook who is making his first career NFL start in the playoffs. That’s never happened at the quarterback position! I wrote earlier that Connor Cook was Oakland’s most important player this postseason. It’s hard for me to believe that Cook has any chance of having success against a tough Texans defense. Here is my scouting report on Connor Cook coming into the NFL Draft process. Michigan State, led by Cook, lost 30-0 in a national championship semifinal against Alabama last year. Good luck Raider fans!
2. Bill O’Brien Gives The Texans A Coaching Edge:
Give Bill O’Brien a lot of credit; His team stinks and he finds ways to win. The former Bill Belichick disciple has seen his team outscored on the year the and found his way in the playoffs. He also got stuck with Brock Osweiler who is rumored to have never been wanted. There is tension within the Texans because Osweiler was the G.M’s call Rick Smith. The Texans also lost their best player J.J. Watt and haven’t really missed a beat. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has these guys rolling. Houston leads the NFL in yards allowed on the season. Jadeveon Clowney has had the best year of his career notching 6 sacks. Cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jonathan Joseph matchup really well with the talented Raider wideouts. Houston was able to put up 20 points during the regular season meeting against the Raiders. If they can even have a repeat of that performance you have to believe Houston is a winner with no Derek Carr on the opposite sideline this time. Bill O’Brien will have these guys well prepared.
3. The Raiders Defense Is Flimsy:
Defenses win championships. That is the mantra everyone has been told that is an NFL fan. In a game that is virtually unwatchable due to horrible quarterback play, it may come down to who has the superior defense. Who do you trust to make a play on the defensive side on the ball that could decide the game? It could be Khalil Mack but Duane Brown has been a terrific left tackle allowing just 1 sack all season. Outside of Mack, the Raiders defense is pretty underwhelming. Oakland ranks 26th in yards allowed and 20th in points allowed giving up a hair over 24 per game. There isn’t a team that I can think of in recent memory that wins the Super Bowl with a lousy defense. I know Houston’s unit is pretty good. The advanced metrics show that Houston has the 5th best pass defense in the league. You’re not going to get big plays on these guys. When you are comparing defenses, it is not even close. Houston has the edge.
Read About The Texans Playoff X-Factor HERE!
What a way to start off the 2017 NFL postseason game. Let’s face it, folks this game is unwatchable. In picking this game I lean towards the Raiders. I think they can lean on Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard to run the ball effectively. Run defense is the one area the Texans have struggled. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Connor Cook is going to win a playoff game. Just in case I’m wrong, you get 3.5 points and the Texans are not winning by more than a field goal. I think it will be a low scoring game that is won on a spectacular sack-fumble by Khalil Mack.
*If you agree or disagree make sure to let me know @treydaubert