WHY THE TEXANS WILL COVER
Stephanie Stradley is a Texans blogger for the Houston Chronicle. You can follow her on Twitter @StephStradley.
Difference in penalties
The Texans are the least penalized team in the league (5.1) and the Raiders are the most penalized team (10.4). The trend the last three games is Texans averaging 4 and the Raiders averaging 14. The Raiders have had some distorted penalty games, but the Texans have been pretty consistently good in keeping their composure, keeping penalties down, especially for a defensive-oriented team in the age of penalties favoring offenses.
Defense keeps it close
This is a game of strength versus strength, weakness versus weakness. The Raiders potent offense is facing a Texans defense that has shut down good offenses, and a poor Raiders defense is facing a Texans offense that has weapons but has been inconsistent. The Texans have typically kept games close unless facing excellent defenses that force turnovers. Their three blowout losses were against full-strength Denver and Minnesota defenses and a New England offense that likely knew the Houston offense better than Houston knew it with the Texans changes on that side of the ball.
Offensive line improvement
Though it doesn’t fully show up in the statistics, the Texans offense has looked better as of late with more continuity on the offensive line and the return of LT Duane Brown from injury. This increases their effectiveness running the football and part of controlling the Raiders offense will be to try to keep them off the field. The 2016 Texans are all about scrapping wins together with where they currently are as a team and less about style points.
WHY THE RAIDERS WILL COVER
Joe Fortenbaugh is a writer for Covers and host of “Mornings with Joe, Lo and Dibbs” on 95.7 The Game in the Bay Area, the Oakland Raiders’ flagship station. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeFortenbaugh.
The Silver & Black thrive on the road
Yes, Oakland is technically listed as the “home team” for this Monday night showdown, but I think we can all agree that Mexico City will function more like a road outing than a home game, which is perfect for the Raiders. Oakland is a perfect 5-0 SU and ATS away from the Coliseum this season, winning by an average of 6.4 points per game and covering by an average of 7.9 points per game. As for Houston, the Texans are just 1-3 SU and ATS on the road in 2016, with a 27-point loss at New England and 18-point defeats at both Minnesota and Denver. As for Houston’s lone road victory, that “success” came in the form of an unimpressive 3-point win at lowly Jacksonville.
The Raiders enter Monday night well-rested thanks to a perfectly-timed Week 10 bye, while Houston will travel south one week after a road date at Jacksonville. This additional rest could prove imperative come the second half on Monday night, as Mexico City resides at an elevation of 7,382 feet, which is more than 2,000 feet higher than the city of Denver. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio used to serve as the defensive coordinator in Denver and the Oakland organization is well-versed in the hazards that come with a game played at high altitude thanks to their yearly road game against the Broncos. So don’t be surprised if the Raiders take advantage of this knowledge and experience and figure out how to pull away from the Texans over the final 30 minutes of this game.
The quarterbacks who have given the Raiders the most trouble this season are the ones who demonstrate a consistent willingness to throw the ball down the field. Case in point: Matt Ryan ranks second in the NFL in Yards per Attempt average (YPA) and Drew Brees and Philip Rivers rank tied for seventh. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler ranks dead-last in the NFL in YPA and has struggled mightily in his limited attempts to go vertical. With this knowledge in mind, look for the Oakland secondary to creep closer and closer toward the line of scrimmage in an effort to both suffocate the Houston rushing attack and cut-off the underneath throwing lanes until Osweiler demonstrates that he can successfully execute the long ball.
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