Raiders At Texans Preview: Oakland Looks To End Long Road Trip With Win In Houston

At the beginning of the season, you looked at this five-game stretch away from Oakland for the Raiders, you knew it was going to be tough — but this tough? The five teams they will have played are a combined 24-11, with four of the five currently in playoff position.

One of those projected playoff teams is the Houston Texans — this week’s opponent, and Oakland’s latest opportunity to confirm their status as a team to be aware of in the AFC. Aside from the obvious intrigue surrounding the fact that Oakland traded Gareon Conley to the team they’re playing this week, this week’s game has a number of fascinating layers to keep an eye on.

Playoff watch?

It’s weird to talk playoffs when it comes to an October matchup, but this game really could have playoff implications in a few months. With the Texans and Indianapolis Colts battling it out for the AFC South title, the team who comes up short will surely be in contention for one of the two Wild Card spots. If Oakland were to win this Sunday, not only would they gain a game on the Texans — but they’d hold the tiebreakers against a pair of their biggest competitors.

Not a must-win, but…

If the Raiders finish this road trip with a 3-4 record, it won’t be the end of the world by any stretch. With games against the Bengals, Jets, Chargers (twice) and Broncos still to come, there are wins to be had on the remaining schedule — but that said, this game seems like it would mean more for the overall morale than it would the record.

The Raiders pulled off big wins against the Chicago Bears and Colts — but with a rough showing against the Green Bay Packers last week, it’s easy to assume that doubts may be creeping in about whether this all is for real. A win at Houston would silence those for good and put the Raiders on the map for real.

Pass defense gets another big test

Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, so when he puts up six touchdowns against you, it’s possible to shrug your shoulders and ask, ‘what are you gonna do?‘ The problem for the Raiders? A guy who is arguably his equal is next on the agenda in Deshaun Watson — and worse yet? He’s got a bonafide superstar to throw to.

Add in the fact that Conley — one of the team’s starting corners has been shipped out — and this will be a massive test for the Raiders. Can Nevin Lawson or Trayvon Mullen step up and make some plays? Or will Conley’s absence become a storyline we hear about for a few more days?

Battle of two immovable objects

The Raiders enter the game with the sixth-best rushing attack in the league, while the Texans boast the fourth-best run defense. So who wins? The Raiders already saw the seventh-best run defense in the league (Minnesota) and things didn’t go well — with the Raiders running for just 88 total yards. If they’re going to pull a win out of Texas, they’re going to need a better performance than that.

Interestingly enough, the same goes for the flip side of this equation. Entering the week, the Raiders defense is allowing the fifth-fewest rushing yards per game, while the Texans boast the eighth-best rushing attack in the league.

Moral of the story: keep an eye on the ground game as a key indicator on Sunday.

Derek Carr, signature game

While the Raiders are allowing the second-most passing yards per game (289.8), the Texans aren’t much better — allowing the fourth-most passing yards per game (275.6). This is a big game for the Raiders, and the more I think about it, the more I wonder if this has all the makings of a signature game for Derek Carr.

Carr has been good — but not spectacular — this season, but with a full slate of receivers (and offensive linemen) likely ready to roll on Sunday, I’d love to see him sling it all over the place with efficiency in a big team win. Could we see 300 yards, 3 touchdowns and no turnovers from Carr on Sunday? If so, it would go a long way towards increasing the buzz heading into the team’s long-awaited homecoming.

Prediction: Raiders 30, Texans 28

I think this is a coin flip game, to be honest. It doesn’t help that the Texans are coming off a loss of their own, but the Raiders were far better than the score indicated in Green Bay last weekend — and that was without Trent Brown and Tyrell Williams. As long as Josh Jacobs is good to go, I think the Raiders hang around long enough to give themselves a shot. Put me down for a Daniel Carlson game-winner from 52 yards out on Sunday as the Raiders head home with a winning record.

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