Who's the Guy?
It is rare for a rookie fourth-round pick to immediately emerge as a team's top player, but that is certainly the case with Texans' running back Dameon Pierce. The former Florida standout has thrived as the team's RB1 with 412 rushing yards and three touchdowns in five games. As a no-nonsense runner with plus size and strength, Pierce leads the NFL with 414 rush yards after contact, per Next Gen Stats. With the rookie also leading the league in rush yards against stacked boxes (eight-plus defenders), the Texans' RB1 should be the focal point of the Raiders' defensive game plan.
Don't Sleep On… Nico Colins
Nico Collins is the Texans' leading receiver with 272 receiving yards on 15 catches. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is a jump ball specialist with length and leaping ability to wrestle 50/50 balls away from undersized defenders. As a natural red zone threat, Collins is a matchup problem who deserves extra attention on key downs.
Know His Name… Jerry Hughes
Jerry Hughes is quietly putting together one of the best seasons of his career as a Texan. The 34-year-old pass rusher leads the team with four sacks but also has added an interception and a forced fumble. The veteran defender has turned back the clock to give the Texans a pass-rushing presence off the edge.
Under Pressure… Davis Mills
Davis Mills is attempting to play his way into the Texans' long-term QB1 role. The second-year pro has been maddeningly inconsistent this season with a 62.7% completion rate and a 5:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. With Mills unable to consistently string together completions or make big-time throws (51.7 passer rating on third downs — last in the NFL), the Texans' starting quarterback must play better to chalk up wins against solid teams.
Numbers Game: 196
The last time Davante Adams faced the Texans (Week 7, 2020), he set a then-career-high with 196 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 13 catches. The All-Pro wideout has 100-plus yards in three of his five games with the Raiders.
Matchup To Watch: Josh Jacobs vs. Christian Kirksey
The Texans must stop the NFL's third-leading rusher to have any chance of slowing down a Raiders offense that has embraced a ground-and-pound approach. Kirksey will have his hands full filling the gaps between the tackles to keep the Raiders' RB1 in check. How well he fares against the hard-nosed runner could determine whether the Texans can force Derek Carr to throw against a loaded defense on critical downs.
The Texans offense utilizes a no-frills approach to minimize mistakes and miscues. The run-centric game plans feature a rugged runner in Dameon Pierce, but offensive coaches will sacrifice sizzle for stability when it comes to playcalling. The Texans want to pound the ball between the tackles to shorten the clock and set up a shot play to Brandin Cooks or Nico Collins on a play-action pass. If the Texans are able to play the game within their comfort zone, they can turn the contest into a fourth-quarter battle that is won on flawless execution at the end of the game.
Texans Head Coach Lovie Smith's bend but don't break defense will test the patience and discipline of Derek Carr and Josh McDaniels. The Raiders' offensive leaders must be willing to drive the length of the field on an assortment of short passes and tough runs against a defense designed to take away big plays. If the Raiders fail to exhibit patience and discipline as playcallers, the turnovers and mistakes will come back to bite them in a close contest that favors the Texans.
The Raiders hit the practice field at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center as they prepare for their Week 7 matchup against the Houston Texans.