Rebound: Texans @ Raiders Preview

The Raiders wasted an opportunity an opportunity to get to 2-1 last week, while the Houston Texans fell to 2-1 after a loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Both teams will try to rebound in week four and put tough losses behind them on the 100% grass surface at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum this Sunday.

These teams are familiar foes, having traded blows each of the past four seasons. The Texans defeated the Raiders 29-6 almost exactly one year ago in Houston. The previous three games were in Oakland with the Raiders winning 27-16 in 2008 and the Texans defeated the Raiders in 2007 and 2006.

Offense


The Texans pass defense has surrendered 369 yards per game through the air in the first three weeks, having played Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo. Bruce Gradkowski has the opportunity to expose the Texans young secondary with a big day. The Texans have surrendered pass plays of 60 yards or more in each game this season.

It is possible the quality of quarterbacks had something to do with exposing the Texans young secondary meaning Gradkowski will not be able to match the same level of production. However, the Texans corners still have limited experience and Gradkowski has mobility that could get the Raiders young receivers open deep. The Cowboys were able to set up their passing game behind a solid running game early, look for the Raiders to do the same.

The Texans have surrendered just 54 yards per game on the ground, but surrendered 101 yards last week against Dallas. Stopping Indianapolis and Washington on the ground isn’t much of a task and the Raiders run offense will be their biggest test of the season.

Look for the Raiders to run around the edges and throw screen passes with McFadden to tire the pass rush of Mario Williams. Michael Bush could see more action running the ball at the untested heart of the Texans defense.

If the Raiders don’t fall behind early, the Raiders ground game must be a priority. If the ground game doesn’t get going, there will be nothing to keep the Texans pass rush from spending their day in Gradkowski’s lap. A good running game will really put the pressure on the young secondary to deal with the added dimension of play action and open up the passing game.

Match-ups To Watch:

Young Receivers vs Young Secondary

If Louis Murphy is healthy enough to go, he should be able to do damage against the rookie Kareem Jackson. Darrius Heyward-Bey had a few good moments last week and has been Gradkowski’s favorite target. The banged-up receivers have drawn soft match-ups and need to step up and perform against a bad one.

Wario Henderson vs Mario Williams

Sometimes Wario does get the best of Mario and the Raiders need that to happen this Sunday. Mario Henderson had his best game of the season in week three, but that isn’t saying much. His finest game as a professional may have been against Williams two season ago. If Henderson is effective, the Texans may flip Williams to the left side to go against Langston Walker. Close your eyes if it gets bad.

Defense


The Texans 146 yards per game ranks just one yard behind the Raiders. This Texans team is much more difficult to stop offensively with a solid running game. Arian Foster leads the league in rushing yards with 406 through three games, but has only mustered 170 the last two weeks. Foster was held to just 69 yards against Washington in week two.

The Texans deploy a zone-blocking system not too dissimilar to the one Tom Cable knows and loves, so it should be no secret to the Raiders how to stop it. The Texans will get the entire offensive line moving one direction and use it to seal off defenders so Foster can cut back up the middle. The linebackers will have added pressure to maintain their gaps.

The secondary may have to come up and support the run when the Texans try to get Foster around the edge. Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff’s tackling will be tested by Foster’s size when he slips past the linebackers.

The Raiders should have Richard Seymour and John Henderson to deploy up the middle with Tommy Kelly, something they haven’t had since week one.

If Andre Johnson plays, Nnamdi Asomugha should be able to limit him. Kevin Walter has the ability to shred a secondary when the opposition can’t focus on him, meaing this could either be a breakout game for Stanford Routt or one that exposes him. Jacoby Jones can be dynamic and the Raiders will need the nickel corner to handle his speed.

Match-ups To Watch

Nnamdi Asomugha vs Andre Johnson

Larry Fitzgerald received the Nnamdi Asomugha treatment last week and only caught one pass against him. It was the first game the Raiders have allowed Asomugha to shadow the opposing team’s number one receiver. When the Raiders played zone, Derek Anderson immediately threw to Fitzgerald for a touchdown.

Andre Johnson hasn’t had much success against the Raiders and it isn’t hard to figure out why.

Stanford Routt vs Kevin Walter

Routt will have his hands full with Walter. Walter shredded the Redskins in week two and is a weapon Matt Schaub will look to when Andre Johnson is covered. Routt will either continue his solid play and establish himself as a starting corner in this league or be exposed by one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Owen Daniels vs The Coverage

Daniels has killed the Raiders in the past, but was limited in the previous match up. Thomas Howard may get more playing time if Quentin Groves or Kamerion Wimbley struggle to stay with Daniels.

The Raiders may also commit a safety to Daniels, at the expense of deep help. This would apply added pressure to the Raiders corners and potentially open up short routes.

Special Teams


The Raiders allowed the opening kick off to be returned for a touchdown last week and last season against the Texans. Jacoby Jones did the damage last season and is just as dangerous this season to take one to the house.

Sebastian Janikowski will rebound from a terrible day and put a few through the uprights. The Raiders would prefer Seabass be limited to extra points considering their struggles in the red zone.

Prediction


Raiders eek out a close one at home and Janikowski gets sweet redemption by hitting a field goal to win it, 27-24.

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