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Key Matchups To Watch: Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans


The Silver and Black are back in the playoffs.

After a 14-year postseason hiatus, the Oakland Raiders will take on the Houston Texans Saturday afternoon at NRG Stadium in the Wild Card round of the AFC playoffs.

With Connor Cook now at the helm of the Raiders offense, Saturday's game now has another layer of added intrigue, so before kickoff, let's take a look at some key matchups that will be crucial in the end result of the playoff clash.

Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave vs. Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel

Boy, things do change quickly in the NFL, don't they?

Just two weeks ago, the Raiders offense was led by MVP candidate Derek Carr, but as a result of Carr's broken fibula, and Matt McGloin's left shoulder injury, the Raiders are marching into their first postseason game since 2002 with Connor Cook at the helm.

Saturday's matchup against the Texans will be Cook's first NFL start, which makes him the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first career start in the postseason.

The rookie quarterback from Michigan State will certainly have his hands full too, as he'll be pitted against a Houston Texans defense that is statistically the best unit in the NFL.

Romeo Crennel has done a tremendous job with the group in 2016, and with a rookie quarterback under center for the Raiders, the Texans edge rushers like Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus will have their ears pinned back come Saturday afternoon.

So here lies one of the main storylines to follow in Saturday's Wild Card matchup.

The Raiders have one of the best offenses in the NFL, and as we stated above, the Texans have the best defense in the league.

Watching how Musgrave and Crennel call their respective games at NRG Stadium will be something to keep an eye on, and whichever coordinator gains the upper hand will likely go home with a victory.

Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree vs. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph

Since Connor Cook is making his first career start in what is admittedly a pretty high-pressure situation, the rookie quarterback is going to need his playmakers both in the backfield, and out wide, to step up in a big way if the Raiders offense wants to find success come Saturday.

Michael Crabtree is coming off a game in which he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, but he unquestionably left the Week 17 loss to the Denver Broncos with a sour taste in his mouth, and not only because of the final result of the game.

Crabtree has been a consistent presence all season for the Silver and Black's offense, and if the veteran wide out can show up in a big way, and put Cook in good positions to make plays, it would serve the Raiders offense well as a whole.

"King Crab" will have hands full against the Texans though. While Romeo Crennel will likely adjust the Houston coverage throughout the afternoon, Crabtree will likely spend a fair amount of time squared up against Johnathan Joseph who put together a quality campaign in 2016, registering nine passes defensed which was good for second most on the Texans.

Can Crabtree find the end zone and make life difficult for Joseph and the Texans? Only time will tell, but this battle out wide is one I'll be keyed in on.

Defensive End Khalil Mack vs. Left Tackle Duane Brown

When Derek Carr went down with a broken fibula Week 16, there was understanding that from top to bottom, every group on the Raiders roster would have to step up and increase its intensity in Carr's absence.

From the wide receivers and running backs, to the defensive line and the secondary, with a new quarterback under center, there was a certainly an understanding that collectively the Raiders had to be better to attempt to supplement the loss of Carr.

As a team captain, and an All-Pro player himself, one of the players asked to lead that charge is Khalil Mack.

No. 52 recorded a sack when the teams squared off Week 11 in Mexico City, and if the athletic edge rusher can get rolling against the Texans, and make life difficult for Brock Osweiler, it would go a long way in helping the Raiders defense in the most-important game they've played all season.

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