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Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans

by: Staff Writer - posted on: 13-Nov-2013

Two teams with nonexistent playoff hopes are set to meet in Houston on Sunday. The Raiders are 6-3 against the number through nine games this year (3-6 SU), with Houston coming in at 2-7 both ATS and SU. I expect regression back to the norm to take place for both teams beginning Sunday. Additionally, there are some matchup specific issues here that make this a worthwhile opportunity to take the home favorite in what could be a complete blowout.

SportsInsights ran a story on ESPN which detailed that over the last 100 or so games played in the November through January time frame involving teams who are winning ATS at a clip less than 25%, those teams hit at about a 60% rate in the aforementioned months. Houston fits that criteria here.

Following a trend like that can get you into some trouble given that every game is different and involves a new set of random variables at play. For example, the Jaguars fit that description heading into their game this Sunday as well. Yet, the Jags are coming off their first win and have been brutal at home, making them a team I would not seriously consider despite them getting a sizable number (7-7.5 right now) versus the Cardinals.

But the Texans do make a lot of sense regarding the scenario they currently find themselves in. They have found new life with quarterback Case Keenum leading the way. Despite a trio of very difficult losses in recent weeks, this team is still fighting, as evidenced by their near comeback in the Arizona game last Sunday.

More importantly, however, is their opponent here. The Raiders come off a somewhat lucky cover against New York last week and now have to hit the road again as dogs. They have been absolutely dismantled by teams with elite passing games in recent months (take a look at what Denver and Philadelphia did against them).

Houston has that sort of passing game now with Keenum, a player who made only his third career start last week, yet put up massive numbers against what is a pretty good group of corners in Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Jerraud Powers. Keenum completed 22 passes to eight different receivers. He found Andre Johnson for touchdowns on two occasions and has really made a concerted effort to get the talented DeVier Posey more involved in the game plan from the slot.

In addition, the Raiders could be severely depleted offensively. Terrelle Pryor is dealing with a somewhat serious knee issue that has progressively gotten worse in the last two weeks. He left the Philadelphia game back on November 3rd and did not look healthy at all against a New York team that has given up big rushing yards to quarterbacks in matchups against Philadelphia and Carolina this year.

As both Indianapolis and Arizona illustrated in the last two weeks, the key to beating the Texans defense is through the air. Their corner play is inconsistent and their pass rush is limited with Brian Cushing on IR. The Raiders don’t have a tremendous or consistent passing game to begin with. Should Pryor not be available, their metrics in that area get significantly worse with backup Matt McGloin the only other signal caller on this roster right now. McGloin is a former walk-on at Penn State who lacks the ability to be successful in the NFL beyond practice scenarios.

Laying seven points is tough to stomach in a league where underdogs seem to thrive, but I see a big discrepancy in these two rosters. Injury news and obvious matchup issues are two areas I love to pay attention to, and they both likely work in Houston’s favor here.

I believe this number will rise significantly during the week if Pryor is not available. If he is a full go and is limited, I still expect it to get up to as many as 8 or 8.5 regardless. Taking the Texans now at -7 offers a sizable amount of value given the issues discussed.