With the 2016 NFL season already entering Week 11, it’s clear that the Oakland Raiders’ hot start is no fluke. The team has proven to be among the best in the AFC, and they are being treated like legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Taking on the first-place Houston Texans, Oakland is a six-point favorite on “Monday Night Football,” via OddsShark. The Raiders are technically the home team, but the contest is being played on a neutral field in Mexico City. Derek Carr and Co. already have five wins outside of Oakland this season, and there’s a good chance they’ll end Week 11 with a sixth.
Houston sits atop the AFC South with a 6-3 record, but much of their success stems from playing in the NFL’s weakest division. When the Texans have been tested away from their home stadium, they haven’t even been competitive. In visits to New England, Minnesota and Denver, Houston has lost by an average of 21 points, and the Raiders are probably better than both the Vikings and Broncos.
It’s mainly the Texans’ offensive struggles that have kept them from competing with the league’s best teams. After signing a four-year deal for $72 million in the offseason, Brock Osweiler has proven to be the worst free-agent signing of 2016.
His 74.1 passer rating ranks behind that of 30 other starting quarterbacks, and he’s been consistently mediocre. The quarterback hasn’t posted a passer rating of 91.0 or better in a single game this year, and he’s never thrown for more than 268 yards in a Texans uniform. In Houston’s Week 10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Osweiler threw for just 99 yards.
That kind of performance might be good enough to defeat a last-place team, but it won’t suffice against one of the NFL’s top scoring teams. Only two teams have been able to hold the Raiders to fewer than 28 points in a game, and Oakland has the personnel to move the ball against an above-average defense.
Carr might not post big numbers like he has all season, but he’s had success against elite defenses. The quarterback posted his highest passer rating of the year (123.4) when facing Baltimore’s No.1 ranked defense, and he led the Raiders to a 30-point game against Denver’s vaunted defense.
Houston’s weakness on defense comes against the run. They are just 22nd in yards allowed per carry (4.3), and they’ll be susceptible to Oakland’s ground game. Only the Buffalo Bills average more yards per carry than the Raiders, who have a few capable running backs in Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Oakland neutralized Denver’s secondary in their last victory by running the ball 43 times for 218 yards, and Monday could play out in a similar fashion.
Between Osweiler’s struggles and Oakland’s improving defense, the Texans won’t have much of a chance if the Raiders can move the ball with any consistency. Allowing more than 30 points in three of their first five games, Oakland's defense continues to improve, allowing 26 points or fewer in each game since Week 6.
Likely keeping the final total below the over/under of 46, the Raiders might hand the Texans their second double-digit loss on “Monday Night Football” this season.
Prediction: Oakland over Houston, 28-17