Nov 13, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller (26) takes a handoff from quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) during the second half of a football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. The Texans won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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Texans vs. Raiders – The Houston team needs this game, in the vernacular of the President-elect, “bigly”. It is Huuuge.
Yes. Houston will lead the AFC South regardless of the game’s outcome. Yes, by beating their division foes the rest of the way they pretty much control their own division destiny unless either the Titans or Colts get really hot. But this game is important in defining who the Texans are.
Usually a 6-3 division leader is widely respected, but the Texans are not. Being a three point dog to a 2-6 division bottom feeder told you that. Being a six point underdog on a neutral field to the 7-2 AFC West division leading Raiders confirms it. Houston is not considered an elite or dominant team. They fall into “the best of the rest” category.
True what the pundits and odds-makers think doesn’t determine the outcome of games. However, to some extent it may reflect what a team thinks of itself, and that does effect the game. Even if a team tries to ignore the noise and truly believe in itself (as they all claim), there are certain undeniable facts that influence the opinion leaders and the team psyche. The following facts face the Houston team:
Nov 13, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) throws a pass during the second quarter of a football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Texans facts –
The Texans have not beaten a team with a winning record on the road.
Houston is 1-3 overall against better than .500 teams.
Every team the Texans face in the playoffs will have a winning record and likely all but the first game will be played on the road, should the Texans even get past the first round.
The Houston defense is good, but not dominating. It ranks 4th in total defense, but 26th in rushing defense. It ranks 2nd in pass defense, but that ranking will be difficult to keep up because of injuries in the secondary. The Texans rank only 12th in the most important defensive statistic, points allowed, 20.89/ game.
The Houston offense is glaringly weak. They rank 30th in overall offense, dead last in passing offense and 26th in rushing offense. The Texans rank 29th in points scored, 17.89/game.
There you have it. Pundits disrespect the Texans because they are statistically much worse than their 6-3 record indicates. They score 3 fewer points per game than their opponents. They are 1-3 against teams with winning records. The Houston team is 1-3 on the road. That’s what makes this game “huuuge”. One game can turn everything around.
Nov 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) reacts after the Raiders rushed for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Texans Vs. Raiders is an opportunity for the Houston team to redefine who they are.
The Raiders are a quality opponent–at7-2 they are tied for their division lead in the AFC West, arguably the best division in the NFL. They rank 5th in total offense, 6th in passing offense, 4th running the ball. While they rank 28th in overall defense including 30th against the pass and 21st against the run, the defense is talented and improving week by week after a disastrous first month and a half. The Raiders are media darlings.
Furthermore, this game is played away from NRG Stadium. Technically it’s a road game, although the Mexico City crowd will include lots of Texans fans. Even if it is a neutral site, it can, at least, show the Texans are not totally dependent upon NRG and its boisterous fans.
Finally, against a quality opponent and away from home, it gives the Texans a chance to awaken a passing game worthy of the preseason hype. 99 yards won’t do it. Dink and dunk won’t do it. This is squarely on the shoulders of Brock Osweiler, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller and , especially, Bill O’Brien.
The mantra is “Houston can’t beat elite teams”, “Houston can’t win on the road”, the Texans can’t pass the ball”. The facts are that the Raiders are an elite team, the game is on the road, and Houston must effectively pass the ball to win the game.
If Houston wins the mantra is erased and the team is reinvented. If they don’t the writing is on the wall. Struggle for the playoffs, one and done at best, wait until next year. A loss to the Raiders, especially a decisive loss, might be enough to turn a fan to the Rockets. The Rockets may not always win, but at least they let it fly.