The Oakland Raiders have a highly anticipated matchup on Monday Night Football against the Houston Texans. With the Kansas City Chiefs winning while the Raiders were on bye, both teams are now tied for the top spot in the AFC West. Head coach Jack Del Rio and his team is ready for the matchup, with a prepared mindset.
The team has had two weeks to prepare for the matchup, as the bye week allowed players to rest, while the coaching staff began their game plans. Del Rio has noted how the team has continued their improving ways, which is the main goal any postseason hopeful team should have.
When asked about how the team approaches each contest, Del Rio stated that it is all about implementing a successful formula, via Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com:
“We’ve been very purposeful in approaching each game one at a time, really understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each opponent,” Del Rio said. “We have a healthy respect for every team we go against, but we’re not fearing anybody. So, it’s all about us and our preparation leading up to the game. Whether it’s here at home in front of our great fans or whether it’s down somewhere else on the road. Even an international setting like Mexico City, which we know will be awesome, but it still comes down to our preparation leading up to playing a good game.”
The defense has continued playing strong, as Ken Norton Jr.’s unit is steadily climbing the defensive ranks. The emerging play of rookie Jihad Ward has been a pleasant sight to see, as he provides continual pass rush qualities while on the field.
Although his playing time has been spotty as a starter, he has provided a spark and fresh legs when asked to contribute. In nine games played this season, he has recorded 15 tackles (seven solo), with a fumble recovery.
Ward has recorded several hits on the quarterback, although he has yet to get a sack in his rookie season. When Ward was asked what the showdown at Estadio Azteca would entail, he said that the Raiders will continue their game-by-game approach, regardless of the location:
“It’s just the next game,” rookie defensive end Jihad Ward said. “We just have to keep getting better, and just compete until the next game. We‘re onto the next. It’s a big game for us. It’s Monday Night Football, but we’re going to treat it like a regular game. We’re going to play Raider football.”
While the offense of the Raiders will battle against a strong Texans’ defense (even with the loss of J.J. Watt), the defense will be another battle.
Texans’ starting quarterback Brock Osweiler has struggled immensely in his first season with the team, while running back Lamar Miller has been battling constant injuries. If the Raiders can contain Miller and Alfred Blue from the get go, it will create plenty of opportunities to hit Osweiler and get some turnovers.