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The Wild Card round represents the hope round for the NFL playoff teams. The Oakland Raiders (12-4) and the Houston Texans (9-7) fought and clawed their way into playoffs and now have their chance to make some noise. In this particular match up, hope will go a long way in determining the winner. The Raiders limp into the playoffs looking to win their first playoff game since 2002. Meanwhile the Texans aren’t that confident in Brock Osweiler starting in his first playoff game.
Keys To The Game
The Raiders come in with third-string quarterback Connor Cook starting behind center. Running back Latavius Murray and company will have to get the ground game going to take the pressure off the inexperienced signal caller. In the passing game, they will have to find ways to incorporate wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper as much as possible even though both are banged up. Short easy passes and a good running game will set up play action and long pass plays. On defense, the Raiders were middle of the pack but very high in the turnover department. Linebackers Khalil Mack and veteran Bruce Irving have been giving opposing quarterbacks fits all year. The Raiders will have to get after it and victimize the newly inserted Texans starting quarterback and force the turnovers they have been so known for throughout the season.
The Texans will get a much needed boost with running back Lamar Miller returning. The offense will need to control the clock and grind down the defense. The off again, on again quarterback Osweiler will need to limit his mistakes to a minimum since Oakland has a knack for causing those. If Osweiler find ways to make a few plays downfield while his opposition is busy sniffing out run plays, that could impact the game heavily. Houston on defense represent the big boys on the block. Ranked first in yards against and second in passing yards against, they only give up 25 yards per drive (staggering!). Linebacker Bernardrick McKinney and company will have to improve on their run defense as Oakland will no doubtly give a healthy serving of run plays. Their pass defense, as stellar as it is will need to sniff out play-action and trick plays, the receivers they’re facing are deceptive and shifty.
The X-factor for the Raiders is running back Latavius Murray. He led the team with 788 rushing yards and 12 TDs. He will have to get chunks of yards and get into the end zone if his team will have a chance against Houston.
The X-factor for the Texans is defensive end Whitney Mercilus. The young defensive end led the Texans with 7.5 sacks and four fumble recoveries. He will have to bulldoze his way into the Raiders backfield and keep the first time quarterback on his heels.
Prediction: The Texans lost in Oakland 27-20 in their regular season match up back in week 11. Houston avenges their loss with a 20-14 win.