The best part of January: playoff football.
Wild Card weekend is here.
The No. 5 Oakland Raiders, who were just about to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs before losing starting quarterback Derek Carr for the season, will travel to Houston to take on the Brock Osweiler-led No. 4 Houston Texans.
How the Oakland Raiders can win…
With the rookie Michigan State product under center for his first NFL start, Jack Del Rio’s squad will need to get the run game going early and often. Running back Latavius Murray ran for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 195 carries. He only received 20+ carries in three of his 12 starts this season—Oakland is 2-1 in those games. Murray has’t gotten into the end zone in the final three games. In a 27-20 win over Houston on Monday night earlier this season, Murray ran the ball just 12 times for 33 yards.
How the Houston Texans can win…
Veteran $72 million dollar man Brock Osweiler is back under center for Houston after being benched in favor of Tom Savage. At this point in the season, Brock will simply need to act as a game manager for Houston. Limit turnovers (which may be a lot to ask for Osweiler), and let Lamar Miller carry the bulk of the work load on offense. In games in which Miller puts the ball into the end zone, Houston is 4-1. The only loss? A 27-20 loss to Oakland down in Mexico. Keep Murray out of the end zone and put pressure on rookie Cook and Houston’s defense could put game manager Brock in position to win this thing.
Our Pick: Texans, 21-17
With Carr in, Oakland wins this game handily. But with an inexperienced rookie in Connor Cook under center against the 11th-ranked scoring defense in playoff atmosphere, I’m not so sure Oakland can pull off the first-round victory. Houston went 9-7 this year, but seven of those nine wins were at home. Houston is at home this afternoon, and should be able to make it 8-1.
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