Six weeks after the Oakland Raiders’ never-ending road trip began, it will mercifully come to an end Sunday afternoon at NRG Stadium.
Sitting at 3-3, the Silver and Black are set to take on the Houston Texans in Week 8 action on Sunday, and if Head Coach Jon Gruden’s can fly back to The Bay with a win in tow, they’ll actually finish their insane road trip over .500.
Doing that won’t be an easy task though, as Deshaun Watson and Co., are going to look to right the ship after a Week 7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:25 PM PT; here are three key matchups to watch once we get to game time.
Josh Jacobs vs. Carlos Hyde
Sunday’s clash at NRG Stadium will feature two teams that love to run the ball, and are really effective at doing just that.
Entering Week 8, both the Raiders and Texans boast Top 10 rushing attacks – the Raiders at No. 6 and the Texans at No. 8, respectively – and establishing a tone and rhythm at the line of scrimmage is paramount to what both squads want to do offensively.
Starting with the Silver and Black, Josh Jacobs has been better than advertised coming out of the University of Alabama, and I’m excited to see how he follows up his career day in Green Bay last week.
On the other sideline, Carlos Hyde seems to have found a home in Houston, and while he didn’t really get rolling against the Indianapolis Colts last weekend, the dynamic running back is still averaging north of four yards per carry, and is a player that is liable to go off at any point throughout the game.
Jacobs and Hyde obviously won’t go toe-to-toe on the gridiron Sunday afternoon, but keep an eye on which of the two imparts their will more throughout the contest.
Daryl Worley vs. DeAndre Hopkins
With Gareon Conley now ironically residing in Houston, Daryl Worley finds himself as the unquestioned No. 1 cornerback on the Raiders’ roster, and as such, I expect him to get first crack at the Texans’ All-Pro wideout, DeAndre Hopkins.
Could Trayvon Mullen also get some time against No. 10? Possibly, but that seems like a big task for a rookie poised to make his first NFL start.
Albeit in a losing effort last weekend in Indy, Hopkins was a beast in Week 7, hauling in nine catches for 106 yards and a score, and with the type of freakish talent that he has, the former Clemson Tiger can be a problem for any defense.
Gruden has lauded Worley for his versatility this season, saying that the team has big plans for him, but if the Raiders want to fly back to California over .500, Worley – and the rest of the DBs – will have to find a way to take Hopkins away from Deshaun Watson.
Kolton Miller vs. J.J. Watt
You can’t talk about the Houston Texans and not mention J.J. Watt.
Now in his eighth season, the five-time Pro Bowler has shown no signs of slowing down, and while he hasn’t registered a sack since Week 5, Watt still has the ability to be a game wrecker for the Houston defense.
As far as the Raiders are concerned, even without the services of Trent Brown in Green Bay, the group delivered a stellar performance against the Packers, not surrendering a quarterback hit all game, as well spring boarding the team for north of 150 rushing yards.
With Brown’s status still up in the air, once again, much will be asked of Kolton Miller, who has quietly had a really nice start to his sophomore campaign in Silver and Black.
By and large, the offensive line has done a stellar job keeping Carr upright, but they’ll have their hands full Sunday afternoon at NRG Stadium.
Willie Brown will forever be cherished as a true Raider. He was an integral part of the organization through six decades. His leadership and presence will always be a major part of the fabric of the Raiders Family.