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Know Your Foe: Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders' hype train was going a million miles an hour after the 7-2 Raiders dominated the defending World Champion Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football a few Sundays ago. Quarterback Derek Carr followed up 500+ yards of passing down in Tampa in an overtime win over the Buccaneers by leading the Raiders to the 30-20 convincing win over Denver. As such, the conversation started soon after the clock hit all zeroes.

"Is this Raiders team capable of beating New England in the AFC Championship game?"

"Can Derek Carr be the league MVP?"

Man, that's big boy talk and the Raiders entered the bye week 7-2. Yes, they are tied for the best record in the AFC, but they've won three games on the last play of the game or overtime and had to come from eight down twice in the second half in a win at home over San Diego. Regardless, the win over the Broncos trumpeted the Raiders arrival as the next challenger to the Patriots in the AFC. Or, so it seemed to many in the NFL world.

Speaking of world, the two teams will be world travelers as they head to Mexico City for only the second regular season game ever in Mexico. Our 'Know Your Foe' series takes a look at the vaunted Oakland Raiders, tied for first place in the AFC West.

2016 Team Profile
Rush offense - 127.8 ypg (4th in the NFL)
Passing offense - 273.3 ypg (6th)
Total offense - 401.1 ypg (5th)
Scoring - 27.2 ppg (5th)
3rd Down Percentage conversion - 37.7% (21st)
Giveaways - 6 (3 fumbles, 3 INT - Tied for 2nd)

The Raiders offense aligned as follows in their last game against the Denver Broncos two weeks ago.

WR - Michael Crabtree
LT - Donald Penn
LG - Kelechi Osemele
C - Rodney Hudson
RG - Gabe Jackson
RT - Austin Howard
TE - Clive Walford
WR - Amari Cooper
QB - Derek Carr
RB - Latavius Murray
6th OL - Denver Kirkland

Key Offensive non-starters
WR - Seth Roberts
WR - Andre Holmes
RB - Jalen Richard
RB - DeAndre Washington
TE - Mychal Rivera

What's the biggest concern for the TEXANS defense facing the OAKLAND offense?

The Raiders offensive line mauled the Denver Broncos for a full 60 minutes. Completely mauled them at the line of scrimmage. The Texans ran for 140 yards on the Broncos too, but the Raiders offensive line completely blew up and through the Broncos defensive front.

The physical running style of Latavius Murray is complemented perfectly by the quick, explosive rookie dynamos - Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. If the power game isn't getting the Raiders anywhere, they can always spread the Texans out with either of those two rookies in the game at any one time.

Perhaps, the biggest concern, though, is how the Texans will cover the Raiders receivers. Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts, in particular. With no Kevin Johnson and A.J. Bouye coming off of an ankle injury, the Texans' secondary is going to need help to keep the Raiders in check in the passing game.

What's the biggest concern for the RAIDERS offense facing the HOUSTON defense?
The two most important players for the Texans on Monday night are more than likely Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. The Texans must stop the run, but the Raiders have no qualms shutting the run down and throwing the ball throughout the game as they did at Tampa Bay. That means those two stalwart edge players must get to the quarterback but they certainly can if the Raiders choose to block them one-on-one at the line of scrimmage.

The Texans threw some pressures at Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles that gave him plenty of issues. Now, Bortles had no qualms pulling the rock down and running because that was a better option for the Jaguars than him throwing, in all honesty. Carr will scramble and run as well, but he wants to throw the rock, not take hits running with it. As such, Mercilus and Clowney must find a way to win those matchups to keep Carr on his toes. They can. They must.

2016 Team Profile
Rush defense - 114.8 ypg (21st in the NFL)
assing defense - 283.2 ypg (30th)
Total defense - 398.0 ypg (28th)
Scoring Allowed - 24.8 ppg (21st)
3rd Down Percentage conversion allowed - 33.3% (Tied for 2nd)
Takeaways - 15 (7 fumbles, 8 INT - Tied for 8th)

The Raiders defense lined up as follows in their last game against the Denver Broncos two weeks ago.
DE - Jihad Ward (Rookie - 2nd round)
DT - Denico Autry
DE - Khalil Mack (Pro Bowl 2015)
SLB - Bruce Irvin (FA signee in 2016 - Seattle)
MLB - Perry Riley Jr. (FA signee in 2016 - Washington)
WLB - Malcolm Smith (SB XLVIII MVP for Seattle)
LCB - David Amerson
RCB - Travis Carrie
Nickel - D.J. Hayden
FS - Reggie Nelson (FA signee in 2016 - Cincinnati - Pro Bowl in 2015)
SS - Karl Joseph (Rookie - 1st round)

Key Defensive Non-Starters
CB - Sean Smith (hurt v. Denver, FA signee in 2016 - Kansas City)
NT - Dan Williams
S - Nate Allen
NT - Justin Ellis
SLB - Shilique Calhoun (Rookie - 3rd round)


What's the biggest concern for the RAIDERS defense facing the HOUSTON offense?**
The first concern for the Raiders is the health of Sean Smith, the free agent signee from Kansas City. He missed the Denver game but should be ready to go in Mexico City against the Texans. But, is he rusty? Is he on his game? Is he at 100% and if he's not, will the Raiders attempt to put David Amerson on DeAndre Hopkins throughout the contest? That could be a major concern.

The Texans have run the ball extremely well the past four weeks and it should force an aggressive, young safety Karl Joseph into the box repeatedly. As such, if the Texans can protect, play action could get him out of position, chasing running back ghosts. The Texans have averaged 147 yards per game in the past four games on the ground and if they're chewing up chunks of yards on the Raiders defense, it emboldens the Texans offense, but it also keeps Carr and Company on the sideline for minutes at a time.

What's the biggest concern for the TEXANS offense facing the OAKLAND defense?
Khalil. Mack. Pure and simple. The Texans said that they couldn't let Von Miller wreck the game in Denver and they can't let Mack ruin the game in Mexico City. Now, Miller had a lot more help on his defense, so to speak, especially in the secondary. But, Mack sacked Brock Osweiler five times last year in a win over Denver in Denver. He. CAN'T. WRECK. The. Game.

Check out the best shot from Wednesdays practice as the Texans prepare for the Raiders on Monday Night Football.

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