Five Raiders to watch in Monday night showdown vs Texans
South of the border...
The AFC West finally did the Raiders a favor. The Kansas City Chiefs got beat by Tampa Bay on Sunday, giving the Silver and Black a chance to go a full game up on the competition. In order to do that, they have to beat the Houston Texans on Monday night in Mexico City. Las Vegas believes that will happen, considering the Raiders six-point favorites in this matchup of division leaders. Just because the Raiders are expected to win doesn’t mean they will. They’ll need key contributions from several important sources outside the team’s superstars to head home with an 8-2 record, sitting alone atop the AFC West.
5. DT Darius Latham
The undrafted rookie defensive tackle has seen more snaps in recent weeks with Stacy McGee out, and has made the most of them. He has provided solid run defense and an improved interior pass rush to help shore up the interior defensive line. There will be a heavy rotation on the inside, but contributions slowing productive, tough Houston rusher Lamar Miller will be required to put the Texans in a corner.
4. LG Kelechi Osemele
The high-priced interior lineman his earned his paycheck this year, adding some nastiness and grit to a quality Raiders offensive line. Analyst Jon Gruden said the Raiders’ front versus the Texans defensive line is ‘alone worth the price of admission.” Osemele will be key in that battle as the Raiders try to churn out yards on the ground. They ran extremely well behind him and Donald Penn in a victory over Denver, and will likely continue doing so until other teams learn to stop it. That will be difficult if Osemele is on his game.
3. OLB Bruce Irvin
The Texans should be scared of Khalil Mack. He sacked Brock Osweiller five times in their previous meeting last season, and he will be accounted for at all times. That should increase Bruce Irvin’s one-on-one matchups, and the agile pass rusher has a chance to get home despite the fact Trevor Siemian prefers to get the ball out quick. Irvin leads the league with four forced fumbles, meaning turnovers are likely if he can regularly pressure the quarterback.
2. FS Reggie Nelson
The veteran free safety has played much better of late, now that he’s comfortable in this defensive scheme and trusts his teammates to be in the right spot. He’ll be a key figure in this defensive effort, especially assisting cornerbacks covering talented Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins should see significant double teams to dampen his impact. Will Fuller is questionable to play but is a speedy deep threat when healthy. The Texans haven’t been throwing downfield much, and Nelson needs to ensure that trend continues.
1. RB Latavius Murray
The Texans have played solid defense despite working without game wrecker J.J. Watt, though they are vulnerable to a good ground game. They rank No. 26 against the run, allowing 120.7 yards per game this season. Enter Latavius Murray, who worked over the Denver Broncos in violent fashion in Week 9, with 114 yards and three touchdowns. The Raiders will commit to the run, and should try to beat Houston like they beat the Broncos. Murray will spearhead a stout rushing attack, and could have another big day.