Perched near the AFC West lead and poised to overtake it, the Oakland Raiders (7-2) are sizing up their fourth straight victory when they meet the Houston Texans (6-3) in Week 11 at Estadio Azteca Monday night in Mexico City.
Before their bye in Week 10, the Raiders had won three straight and can attain their first four-game victory streak since 2002’s Super Bowl run and even claim the division lead from the Kansas City Chiefs, who are also 7-2 but hold the head-to-head tiebreaker due to their victory at Oakland in Week 6.
However, the Raiders will know whether or not the division lead is in play well ahead of their kickoff with Houston. Kansas City will host Tampa Bay Sunday afternoon.
Oakland is entering the critical backstretch of what’s become its best season in 14 years and stands to snap its equivalent postseason drought. Quarterback Derek Carr finds himself in the MVP discussion as he sits near the NFL summit in most passing categories, helping the offense improve from No. 17 and No. 24 in points scored and total offensive yards, respectively, last season compared to fifth in both categories this year.
Carr, who took a step back and allowed the Raiders fourth-ranked rushing attack to dominate Denver in Week 9, claims the teams has trust in each other.
“I’m just myself. I just really am,” Carr told reporters Thursday. “I thank God that I’m able to come into a room and guys will respond to anything I have to say and I think that has a lot to do with how they see me work, how they see me go about my business and those kinds of things. You can’t say one thing or try and get something out of another guy if you’re not doing it yourself. I’m just thankful that we have a good group of guys that trust in me, but we also have a big room of guys of a lot of leaders.”
The 25-year-old passed for a season-low 184 yards against Denver’s vaunted secondary, and instead turned to running backs Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington and their 218 total rushing yards.
It’s possible, given Houston’s secondary ranking first in the NFL with only 187 passing yards allowed per game, that Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio and Carr call on their rushing trio to take advantage of the Texans No. 26 rush defense.
In turn, despite quarterback Brock Osweiler’s well-documented woes under center, the slow-churning Texans offense could take advantage of Oakland’s lackluster work against the pass. Though the unit has improved of late, the Raiders are No. 31 in the league allowing 283 passing yards per game.
Osweiler, in his first year in Houston after leaving Denver for one of the biggest offseason contracts, has toiled with the fifth-worst completion percentage (58.6) and posted a 74.1 passer rating. In kind, the Texans offense has plummeted to No. 30 in the league and is averaging a mere 17.4 points a contest, each big drop offs after netting 21.2 points and 347.8 yards per game last season.
The one shining star in Houston’s offensive scheme is there other prized free-agent signing, running back Lamar Miller. The former Dolphin is seventh in the NFL with 720 rushing yards and has scored three touchdowns in Houston’s last four games.
However, Miller and his fellow backs Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes each found their way to the injury report this week, which could bode well for a Raiders front line that’s only No. 21 in the NFL against the run.
Kickoff: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Betting Odds: Oakland -6
Over/Under: 46 points
Prediction: Oakland over Houston, 23-17