Keys To Texans v. Raiders

Dec 30, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders fan Wayne Mabry aka Violator reacts against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

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KEYS TO THE GAME:

The Raiders are rested and feeling good about the way they blocked Denver into oblivion in their previous game. The Texans, without J.J. Watt, are still ranked fourth in total defense but are 25th in rush defense. Look for the Raiders to lean on the Texans heavily with Latavius Murray and let their offensive line punish the Texans in the altitude. With a consistent running game, Derek Carr will be even more dangerous in play-action.

Defensively, the Raiders will likely put Karl Joseph in the box and dare Brock Osweiler to defeat them through the air.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

–Raiders C Rodney Hudson vs. Texans NT Vince Wilfork. There aren’t a lot of centers who can deal with Wilfork without help, but the Raiders feel pretty good about Hudson no matter who he is playing against. Hudson is playing the best football of his career and was at his best in the Raiders’ recent win over the Denver Broncos. Wilfork remains adept at tying up blockers (plural), which would in theory free the likes of Jadeveon Clowney as a 3-4 end.

–Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Raiders CB David Amerson. Hopkins remains the most dangerous threat in the Houston offense. But the Raiders faced a similar challenge in Tampa Bay and fared well against the Bucs’ Mike Evans by making sure he was shadowed by Amerson and bracketed all day long. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton will likely look to do the same thing with Hopkins and force Brock Osweiler to look for other receivers, assuming the Texans will struggle without their primary threat.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT:

Raiders WR Andre Holmes. He had two big catches against Denver, including a one-handed grab for a first down. He also downed two Marquette King punts inside the 5-yard line. One of the Raiders’ go-to receivers until Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree arrived, Holmes has not only accepted a lesser role without complaint, he has thrived in it.

INJURY REPORT:

Houston — Out: RB Alfred Blue (calf), RB Jonathan Grimes (illness), WR Jaelen Strong (ankle). Questionable: WR Will Fuller (knee), RB Jay Prosch (hamstring), DT Vince Wilfork (groin).

Oakland — Questionable: WR Amari Cooper (back), C Rodney Hudson (knee), DT Stacy McGee (ankle), RB Latavius Murray (ankle), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), CB Sean Smith (shoulder).

FAST FACTS:

The NFL returns to Mexico for the first time since October 2, 2005, when a crowd of 103,467 witnessed the league’s first international regular-season game as the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-14 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. This will be the first “Monday Night Football” game played outside the United States.

The Raiders have won three consecutive games and six of their past seven. Oakland had a bye in Week 10 after beating Denver 30-20 in Week 9. … Oakland QB Derek Carr has 17 touchdown passes and three interceptions this season.

Texans QB Brock Osweiler threw for 308 yards against Oakland last year, when he was with Denver.

Texans CB Kareem Jackson returned an interception for a TD last week, his third career INT TD. He intercepted a pass in the last game against Oakland.

PREDICTION: The Texans have been blown out in three of four road games and now face the NFL’s fifth-ranked scoring team on foreign soil.

OUR PICK: Raiders, 27-17.

–Chris Cluff

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