By Jason Green
The Raiders had a great season, but to say it has not ended well would be an understatement. First Derek Carr was lost for the season and then with Matt McGloin guiding them he was injured and Oakland lost their last Game, which cost them the AFC West crown. They may have to go with 3rd string rookie Conner Cook in this big Game facing a Texans’ team that has the league’s top-ranked defense and is 7-1 at home.
The Texans lost their last Game of the season, but their playoff seed was already set. As mentioned before they have the league’s 1st ranked defense, which is key for them since they only rank 29th in the league in ppg. The team beNChed high-priced free agent QB Brock Osweiler, but he will be getting the start in this Game with backup Tom Savage going down with an injury in the last Game.
Earlier in the season in Oakland the Raiders beat the Texans 27-20.
In their last Game the Raiders lost on the road 24-6 to the Denver Broncos where they failed to cover as a 1-point underdog.
The Texans lost their last Game 24-17 on the road to the Tennessee Titans where they failed to cover the spread as a 3-point underdog.
The Raiders only managed 221 yards of offense in the loss to the Broncos in their last Game. At least whoever is under center will have Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree on the outside. When Cook came in for the injured McGloin in the Denver Game he passed for 150 yards with a TD and an INT. DeAndre Washington, LAtavius Murray, and Jalen Richard did not do much in the Denver Game, but they have to get it done in this Game with Carr out for this Game.
Houston ranks 2nd in the league in pass defense and 12th in run defense.
Osweiler was beNChed for a reason, but he was not bad when coming in for an injured Savage in the Game for the Titans passing for 253 yards with 1 TD and 0 INT. He has WR DeAndre Hopkins and while they struggled to run the ball RB LAmar Jordan should be back for this Game and he ranked 10th in the NFL in rushing yards.
Oakland ranks 24th in the league defending the pass and 23rd in defending the run.
Oakland is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 road Games, 7-3 ATS in their last 10 Games overall, and in their last 10 Games the posted total has gone Over 7 times.
Houston 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 home Games, 1-6 ATS in their last 7 Games overall, and in their last 6 Games the posted total has gone Under 5 times.
Our Pick – The QB situation for the Raiders certainly throws a wrinkle into the handicapping of this Game. It looks as though the Raiders will go with Connor Cook, who will be making his first NFL start. Wow. your first NFL start being a playoff Game. No pressure, eh?
It also looks like McGloin will be well enough to be the backup on Saturday, making it not out of the question that he finds himself in the Game at some point.
There are many ways to rank offenses and defenses. You’ll hear a lot of talk this week about the Texans defense being #1 in the league. In fact, we mentioned that above. However, it really depends which stats you are using to rank. In terms of total yardage allowed, yes, the Texans defense ranks #1. However, the Cards, Vikings and Broncos rank 2, 3 and 4 and none of them made the daNCe. Heck, the Jags rank 6th! Maybe total yards given up isn’t the best way to rank a defense.
The yards per point stat combines yards given up with points allowed and gives us a better indication of the true strength of a defense. The Texans number is 14.7. Of all playoff teams, only the Falcons have a defensive yards per point number that’s worse (14.6). To be fair, the Texans defense is better at home where their ypp number is 17.2, but to be clear, we aren’t talking about the 85 Bears here.
Offensively, the Texans have been terrible. again, looking at their offensive yards per point number of 18, that would rank their offense last of all playoff teams. Only 4 teams in the NFL had a number on offense this season that was worse, the Bears, Jets, Rams and Browns. Great company eh?
Also note the turnover differential numbers here. The Raiders are +7 while the Texans are -16. The would rank the Raiders #1 and the Texans with only 5 teams worse, the Rams, Browns, Jags, Bears and Jets. ONCe again, great company eh?
Our model has the Raiders winning straight up. That’s using full season data and half season data. If we only use the last 4 Games, the bare minimum number of Games required for Our model to show ACCuracy, it has the Texans by 2, which would still be a Raiders cover.
Now, if there was no QB drama surrounding this Game, we’d be on the Raiders as a solid play. As mentioned above, Cook getting the nod definitely knocks this play down a notch.
However, that said, the QB position CAN be one of the most overrated positions in football at any level. Unless we’re talking Brady or one of the greats, the value of the position often isn’t worth what the public thinks it is. People forget that there are 11 guys on each side of the ball that have an impact on the outcome of a Game.
Sure, a guy making his first career start in the playoffs, well, that’s a unique situation. In fact it’s never happened. We’re in uNChartered waters. But don’t be surprised if the rest of the Raiders team, who has been better this year than the Texans as a whole, picks it up a notch and has Cooks back.
Not as strong as it could have been, but………Raiders +4