By Sam McPherson
When an NFL season goes south, quite often there are plenty of injuries to follow.
Or is it the other way around?
Every team has injuries during the course of a 16-game, National Football League regular season, but with 18 players listed on the official NFL injury report this week, the Houston Texans—with their 2-7 record—truly are licking their wounds as they prepare to host the 3-6 Oakland Raiders this Sunday.
The visitors will be looking for their first road win of the season, while the hosts will be trying to break a seven-game losing streak. With a combined 27 players injured in one form or another, the game may turn into a survival contest.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor is still dinged up with a knee injury that he’s been playing through in recent weeks, and even though his level of play has been relatively poor in the Raiders last two losses (to Philadelphia at home and to the New York Giants on the road), he still represents the best talent Oakland has at the position.
The Raiders will do everything to make sure Pryor is on the field Sunday, despite his limited participation in practice this week.
Meanwhile, starting running back Darren McFadden is out for the game against the Texans with the hamstring injury that’s hampered the free-agent-to-be all season. This means Rashad Jennings will once again get the start, and he’s been productive enough for the Raiders this season thus far.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski still is nursing his rib injury, but he was good to go last week against the Giants and performed well—even though he was in obvious pain. Expect the same from the 35-year-old veteran this week in Houston.
Finally, in the last major injury news for the Raiders, cornerback D.J. Hayden is still out with the groin injury suffered against the Eagles in Week 9, so Houston quarterback Case Keenum won’t have him to contend with as he tries to take advantage of the Oakland secondary on Sunday.
However, the Texans, as noted, have plenty of injury issues of their own—and then some.
The biggest news is that Houston has lost starting running back Arian Foster for the rest of the season with a back injury that required surgery on Thursday. His talented replacement, Ben Tate, is also injured, however, and he is not at 100 percent at all with four broken ribs he will play through on Sunday.
That weakened running attack could be a blessing for the Raiders, as they can pressure Keenum more than they might normally be able to if both Foster and Tate were healthy. In addition, six of the Texans’ top 10 offensive lineman are nicked up, meaning the Oakland defense should be getting ready to attack the Houston offense aggressively on Sunday.
And with linebacker Brian Cushing out for the season with a broken leg, the Texans defense isn’t as formidable as it used to be. Yes, the defensive terror known as J.J. Watt is still playing, so the Raiders will have to keep an eye on him all day, but that’s a lot easier to do without Cushing there to complement him.
Linebacker Joe Mays hasn’t participated in practices this week for Houston, and neither has cornerback Kareem Jackson. Those are two more starters who won’t be at full speed on Sunday for the Texans, if they play at all.
So while the Oakland Raiders have their own injury challenges, they also face an opponent this week in Houston that is struggling with injuries even more so. They have to be able to take the opportunity to (figuratively) kick a team while it’s down this weekend and get their first road victory of the season.
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.