The early season schedule has not been kind to the Oakland Raiders. After getting past the Broncos on opening night, they have had to face the Bills, the Patriots, the Jets and now the Texans. Not exactly a soft schedule for a team trying to find their identity.
This week they travel to Houston to face that other team from Texas, and they enter as 5.5 point dogs. For those of you that know anything about Vegas, you know that 5.5 is a dead number. It might as well be 3.5, or 4.5, but Vegas decided that 5.5 was a nice round number to go with this time around.
So how will the Raiders be able to walk into the Texans house and keep the game so close? Well, the explosive Houston offence took a serious hit when Andre Johnson went down with a hamstring injury last week. He is out at least a few weeks, and Matt Schaub will struggle mightily without him.
While the 3-1 hosts have been aided significantly by their new-look Wade Phillips defense, they still need to score some point. Arian Foster came back in a huge way last week, but he will not have it as easily against the Raiders athletic run defense.
Richard Seymour is eating up space in the middle for Oakland, and the ultra-athletic linebacking corps of Quentin Groves-Rolando McClain-Kamerion Wimbley will be be able to go sideline to sideline with Foster all day long. Tyvon Branch may even pinch in from his safety spot to stack the box if Houston starts to go run heavy.
The Raiders do give up huge plays on the ground, but if they can keep Foster between the tackles and prevent him from breaking away, they might be able to pull this one out.
Oakland will keep this game close, and possibly even win it outright in one way: with their speed. With Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore all healthy for the Raiders, it will be tough for the Texans to take the proper angles to prevent getting gouged for huge yards.
Mix in some Michael Bush goal line muscle, and some Kevin Boss safety salve receptions from Jason Campbell, and Raider Nation just might have the right mix to take down the mighty Texans.
While Arian Foster was impressive last week, he has been made of glass lately, and with backup Ben Tate ailing with a tweaked groin, things could go from bad to worse if last years rushing leader pulls up lame early in this one.
The new look Houston defense could cause some problems for Oakland, especially with super-freak Mario Williams standing up in the 3-4 now, but some misdirection plays should be able to get the former first overall pick on his heels. Brian Cushing is not the player he was as a juicing rookie, and once the Raiders get into the second level, it could turn into a track meet.
Whenever a game turns into a track meet, take the Raiders.
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