Mike Meltser is preparing for the Houston Texans game as they host the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the NFL Playoffs. Here are some things that have run into his head leading up to Saturday’s matchup.
- If there’s ever a game where Brock Osweiler should have some level of confidence, it’s this one. He posted an 82.7 QBR in the 27-20 loss to the Raiders in Mexico City, his highest mark in that category all season. The next highest was the 78.5 QBR against the Bears, way back in Week 1. Osweiler has had a very poor season, but the Raiders game was one of about 2-3 games where I felt he helped, and did not harm, the Texans chances to win the game.
- The Texans are catching the Raiders at the exact right time. This team lost its heart and soul, Derek Carr, and just blew the opportunity to grab the 2nd seed in the AFC. They were noncompetitive in the 24-6 loss to the Broncos last Sunday, with too many penalties and bad tackling on defense. Now, they’re going on the road in the Wild Card round, with a 3rd string quarterback making his first career start. Three weeks ago, this team harbored legitimate aspirations of being able to upset the Patriots in the AFC playoffs.
- The Texans held the Raiders rushing attack to 30 yards, on 20 carries, in the Mexico City game. That same Oakland game rushed for 214 yards in their previous game against Denver. Carr survived that rushing effort, while I don’t believe Cook will be able to.
- The Raiders D is 20th in scoring. In the advanced stats on Football Outsiders, they rank 23rd overall, 25th against the pass and 18th against the run.
- As a corollary to that bullet point, I think the weakness of the defense should enable Houston to give as much focus on Khalil Mack as possible, without worrying about compromising the rest of the offense as much. Chris Clark blocking Mack is a terrifying proposition, but the Texans should be sending help that way for 4 quarters, and allowing the rest of the line to deal with Bruce Irvin.
- I’m a bit nervous about AJ Bouye’s health. He left the Tennessee game with a groin injury, and was listed as a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. I’m sure he’ll play, but it makes me wonder how close to 100% he is. Houston’s best matchup advantage is Cook trying to find open passing windows against Bouye, Johnathan Joseph, and Kareem Jackson.
- The Raiders won the Mexico City matchup largely on the strength of shaky spots and big plays in the 4th quarter, with Carr hitting Jamize Oliwale, Amari Cooper, and Latavius Murray for big gainers late. Can Cook make those plays in his first ever NFL start? I have my doubts.
- Areas of caution: while facing Cook in this spot is great, he won’t be intimidated. He started nearly his entire career at Michigan State, and is familiar with playing in big games. I don’t think he’ll be fazed by the situation. In addition, turnovers are an easy area to mention, but the recipe for a Raiders win likely includes big Houston turnovers on offense and special teams. Avoid them at all costs.