On Saturday, the Texans and the Raiders will face each other in a rematch for the AFC Wild Card game. Both teams enter the playoffs without their star players, and have embraced the 'Next Man Up' mentality.
"It's unfortunate for them that they lost the quarterback, but hey it was unfortunate for us losing J.J. Watt," defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said. "So you got to line up and you got to go play."
The Raiders finished the regular season without quarterback Derek Carr, nominated to the Pro Bowl and on track for an MVP-caliber year.
"You do the best you can regardless of the circumstances," head coach Jack Del Rio said Wednesday in a conference call. "I think, to me, it's a great opportunity. You have these great opportunities in life to be at your best, and you get these great challenges. So, how do you respond? What we want to do is respond like men and go in there full of energy and belief and fight our butts off."
Oakland, after an 11-3 start and a close battle for the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, lost Carr for the remainder of the season when he fractured his fibula in Week 16. Now, the Raiders will turn to rookie Connor Cook who will get his first NFL start in the franchise's biggest game since 2002, the last time Oakland earned a playoff berth.
Meanwhile, the Texans adjusted earlier this season to life without Watt, who underwent season-ending back surgery after the team's Week 3 loss at New England. Jadeveon Clowney switched to defensive end and finished his third NFL season with 6.0 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. Clowney recorded career highs in nearly all statistical categories, earning his first Pro Bowl nod.
"Well what I've told them all year is that we have to play as a unit and everybody on the unit has to pick their game up to try to make up for the plays that J.J. provides because J.J. provides a lot of dynamic plays," defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said. "Sometimes you're not able to get those type of plays from one guy other than J.J. So the whole unit has to pick up their game and so we've been preaching that to them and I think that they've kind of listened to the message and when they play well together we are pretty good."
Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus led the team in sacks (7.5) and tied for first in the NFL with a career-high four fumble recoveries. Safety Quintin Demps earned AFC Defensive Player of the Month for December after recording an interception in four-consecutive games. Crennel's defense finished first in the NFL, allowing just 301.3 net yards per game, for the first time in franchise history.
The Texans AFC Wild Card game against the Oakland Raiders takes place Saturday at NRG Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 3:35 p.m. CT on ESPN/ABC and SportsRadio 610.
Check out the best shots from Wednesday's practice as the Texans get ready for Saturday's playoff game against the Raiders.