By Sam McPherson
The Houston Texans won 10 games in 2011 and 12 games last year, leading to big expectations in 2013 for a possible Super Bowl run. But all that’s come crashing down this season in a current seven-game losing streak. With a 2-7 record now, the Texans may be just playing for pride at this point — as well as for ailing head coach Gary Kubiak.
Football-wise, this means the 3-6 Oakland Raiders have a chance to snag a road victory — their first one of the 2013 season, at that — this weekend against a team that is facing even more adversity than they are this year.
The Raiders have come so close in three road games earlier this year, losing three of them by 10 points or less, including last Sunday’s 24-20 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Thus the game against the Texans in Houston might represent taking advantage of a wounded dog while it’s dying, but at this point, Oakland shouldn’t be picky about how it gets its victories: the Raiders need to grab this chance and run with it — literally.
Oddly, Houston leads the National Football League in total defense, giving up just 280 yards per game, including just 166.6 yards in the air (No. 1 there as well). The Texans do give up 113.4 yards per contest on the ground, however, which is 16th in the NFL, and that can play into Oakland’s game plan since the Raiders run the ball pretty well.
Or at least, they run the ball better than they can pass it.
Houston’s problems this year have mostly been on the offensive side of the ball. Week 1 starting quarterback Matt Schaub set a bad NFL record by throwing an interception returned for a touchdown in four straight games earlier this season, and he’s now on the bench. First year QB Case Keenum is now in charge of the offense, and while he’s fared a bit better, throwing seven touchdowns and no interceptions in 102 pass attempts while also running for 49 yards on eight carries, the team is still struggling to win games.
The Texans still have a formidable running game with Arian Foster and Ben Tate toting the rock, but both have struggled to stay healthy in 2013. The overall numbers look good — Houston is 11th in the league with 123.7 yards per game on the ground, but the team just hasn’t been able to get a lot of continuity going with its talented roster.
Like the Raiders, the Texans have trouble scoring, posting just 170 points in their nine games so far this year. That’s better than the Oakland number (166), but not much much, obviously. The slight difference between the two teams continues on defense where the Texans have surrendered 268 points, which is the seventh-worst figure in the league (although that includes those points scored by the opposing defenses on Schaub’s poor throws).
The Raiders have given up 223 points this year themselves.
The latest blow to the Texans organization is the loss of head coach Gary Kubiak, who suffered a transient ischemic attack at halftime of the team’s Week 9 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Former NFL head coach Wade Phillips has assumed head-coaching duties in the meantime, but the team was clearly shaken by these developments.
On a pure talent level, the Houston roster still boasts a lot of Pro Bowl players on both sides of the ball, making their seven-game losing streak even tougher to comprehend. Defensively, linebacker Brian Cushing and defense end J.J. Watt can wreak havoc on any offensive game plan — Watt alone has 15.5 tackles for loss this season, including a 6.5 sacks on the year.
Offensively, Keenum is probably a more dynamic QB than Schaub was, and if the RBs are healthy, the Texans can run all over anyone. And then, of course, there is Andre Johnson, who already has 62 catches for 850 yards this season.
Thus, the talent is there for Houston to put it all together at any time. The Texans had lost four games by three points or less already this year, including three-point losses to playoff-bound Seattle and Indianapolis — and Houston lost to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs by just one point as well.
Oakland just hopes the Texans’ slide lasts at least one more game, so the Raiders can get their first road win of the 2013 season this upcoming Sunday.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.