The Oakland Raiders (3-6) take their two-game losing streak south to take on a struggling Houston Texans (2-7) team who has lost their last seven games.
The Texans looked to continue their recent years of relative success by winning their first two games, though have encountered frustration by losing seven games in a row coming into Sunday’s matchup with the Raiders.
Houston has turned to rookie quarterback Case Keenum to handle duties under center while veteran Matt Schaub is forced to watch from the bench.
Keenum has given the Texans an added dimension with his ability to open up the offense and drive the ball down field. Since being named the starter before Houston’s week 7 match-up, the young quarterback has thrown for 822 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in three games.
Keenum’s strong play has helped veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson re-emerge as one of the league’s top wide receivers. The Raiders defense will need to keep an eye on Johnson who is third in the league in receptions with 62, to go along with 850 receptions yards (4th in the league).
Oakland’s secondary will also need to keep an eye on DeAndre Hopkins, who seems to be developing into the number-two wide receiver that Houston has been desperately seeking for quite some time to alleviate pressure from Johnson. Hopkins has put together a solid rookie year thus far, already with 37 receptions for 539 yards and two touchdowns.
The Texans will be facing their first game after star running back Arian Foster has been placed on Injured Reserve after needing back surgery. Third-year running back Ben Tate will get the start instead, having rushed for 455 yards this season and one touchdown, holding a 4.42 yards per carry stat.
The Raiders defense is coming off a game in which they were unable to stop Giants running back Andre Brown and their rushing attack last week. Brown rushed for 115 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries last week. Though it isn’t Foster back there, Tate is experienced and is hungry to show his worth. The Raiders defense will have to do a better job at defending the rush this week.
Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor has remained out of practice this week with his sprained right knee, making it look like un-drafted rookie Matt McGloin will get the nod as the starter in Houston. Pryor tried to play through the injury last week but was largely ineffective without his greatest weapon: his speed and athleticism.
Though Pryor returned to practice on Thursday, it will ultimately be up to the coaches to decide if he is ready to return under center. Should they choose McGloin to start on Sunday and rest Pryor’s knee, it would mark the first NFL start for the former Penn State quarterback.
McGloin looked solid in training camp and preseason, enough so that the team ultimately chose him over fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson to make the final roster. McGloin was also ultimately chosen over Matt Flynn to be the backup to Pryor when the team released Flynn during the season. McGloin made his NFL debut in the blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles after Pryor had left with his knee injury. McGloin settled down nicely in his second drive, finishing 7/15 for 87 yards and leading the Raiders to a late 71-yard touchdown drive.
Unfortunately for McGloin, the young rookie will be facing the pass defense in the league statistically, giving up just 166.6 passing yards per game.
McGloin does not possess the same kind of athleticism as Pryor, but has good pocket awareness and has the ability to read defenses relatively well while using solid footwork to drive the ball. One thing to watch though will be his ability to drive the ball on deeper routes, as that was one attribute in question during the draft evaluation process.
The Raiders make-shift offensive line will need to contain J.J. Watt and the Texans defensive line in order to give McGloin some time to locate an open receiver. Watt has 6.5 sacks on the year but is always a threat to breakout and is capable of batting the ball down at the line of scrimmage.
We most likely won’t know who is starting at quarterback until the team’s final injury report is released on Friday.
Running back Darren McFadden appears to still be out with his hamstring injury as well, meaning Rashad Jennings will get the start for the second straight game. Jennings filled in nicely last week with 20 carries for 88 yards, after rushing for 102 the week before.
The Raiders and Texans last met in a memorable game at Reliant Stadium on 10/9/2011, just one game after the death of longtime, iconic owner Al Davis. The Raiders were able to hold on to a 25-20 victory with safety Michael Huff intercepting Schaub in the end zone to secure the win. Fittingly, the Raiders only had ten men on the field on defense.
Milestones to watch for:
WR Jacoby Ford
• Needs 20 kickoff return yards to pass George Atkinson for seventh place on the
Raiders’ all-time KOR yards list.
DE Lamarr Houston
• Needs four sacks to enter the top 20 in Raiders team history.
K Sebastian Janikowski
• Has now converted on 147-consecutive PAT attempts.
• Needs just 59 points to reach 1,500 for his career.
RB Darren McFadden
• Needs 315 rushing yards to eclipse 4,000 yards for his career.
• Needs 470 receiving yards to eclipse 1,500 yards for his career.
• Needs one rushing TD to move into sole posession of ninth place on the franchise’s
career list, and two to tie No. 8 Charlie Smith (24, 1968-74). McFadden enters the
game with 22.
WR Denarius Moore
• Needs 83 receiving yards to reach 2,000 for his career.
QB Terrelle Pryor
• Is currently first amongst all quarterbacks with 504 rushing yards. Pryor could
eclipse the Raiders’ single-season mark of rushing yards by a quarterback with just
26 more yards. Rich Gannon set the mark in 2000 with 529.
WR Rod Streater
• Needs 493 receiving yards to reach 1,500 for his career.
S Charles Woodson
• Needs five interceptions to tie Ed Reed for first on the interceptions list among all
active players with 61.
• Needs one INT-TD to pass Rod Woodson for first on the all-time list with 12.
• Needs one defensive touchdown to pass Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper for the
most defensive touchdowns in NFL history with 13.