The Oakland Raiders enter Monday in a tough battle against the Houston Texans. Both teams have a division lead entering Monday, but a win would give the Raiders a full game lead in the AFC West. Our two experts have decided to give some insight into the Monday Night Football showdown, taking place at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
As a part of the international series for the NFL, the game taking place is the highest combined winning percentage between the two teams and by a far margin. Both teams have their own strengths to play by and the crowd will be lively and maybe at a NFL record capacity.
Eric Avakian (Twitter: @Eavakian5)
For me, the key to the game lies in the defensive unit and how they handle the offense of the Texans. Entering Week 11, quarterback Brock Osweiler is averaging the least the passing yards per game, as the Texans have the worst passing offense in the NFL.
The saving grace for head coach Bill O’Brien has been the running game. The Texans currently have the fifth ranked rushing attack, averaging 121.4 yards per game. To the contrary, the Raiders are ranked 25th in the NFL, allowing 114.8 rushing yards per game.
In order for the Raiders to be successful, they need to contain the running game. The front seven needs to remain committed to stopping running back Lamar Miller, as O’Brien will look to him early on. If Miller is able to get going, it will create better passing situations for Osweiler. If the Raiders are able to contain the run, they can really create havoc on Osweiler.
The Offense will be facing off against the a formidable defense in the Texans, but Jack Del Rio’s defense must be ready to compete in the drastic conditions in Mexico City. Estadio Azteca is more than 2,100 feet higher than the Mile High Stadium in Denver, meaning proper hydration and constant rotations will be key. Every Raiders’ defensive player should be ready to contribute in order for the Raiders to collect their eighth win of the season.
Daniel Starkand (Twitter: @DStarkand)
While it is important for the Raiders defense to stop Miller and the Texans ground game, I think that if the Raiders high powered offense continues to play the way they have this season then the Texans simply will not be able to keep up.
Houston has been good against the pass this season, ranking third in the NFL at just 196.8 passing yards allowed per game, but they have been vulnerable against the run, averaging 120.7 yards per game against on the ground, which ranks 26th.
Much like they did in Week 9 against the Denver Broncos, the Raiders need to give the ball to running back Latavius Murray early and often to wear down the Texans defense and keep the Raiders defense off the field.
If the Raiders show they can have success on the ground then Houston will be forced to load the box, which will open up downfield throws for Derek Carr and the Raiders dynamic receiver duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
Additionally, playing at such a high altitude is difficult, so the more rest the Raiders defense can get will be a big advantage Monday night. Time of possession will be key, as will the ability for the Raiders to convert on third down to keep their defense off the field.