It all starts this weekend for the Oakland Raiders. As Oakland (12-4) prepares for its AFC Wild Card game in Houston on Saturday afternoon against the AFC South champion Houston Texans, many questions still exist.
Most notably, how will third-string rookie QB Connor Cook do in starting his first-ever NFL playoff game?
Cook, who had to come in last weekend in Oakland’s loss in Denver to end the regular season, is relieving backup quarterback Matt McGloin (injured his shoulder in the loss at Denver) when the Raiders take the field in Houston.
So, what kind of chance does Oakland have with a third-string quarterback under center.
Oddsmakers Like Texans At Home
In actuality, the Raiders come into the game as 3.5 point underdogs. That spread shows that many oddsmakers are not overly confident in struggling Houston QB Brock Osweiler and the Texans, even at home.
For Oakland to come out of the Lone Star State with its first playoff victory since the 2002 season, it will need to hope Cook manages the game, allowing guys like Latavius Murray, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to step up.
On the defensive side of the ball, given Osweiler’s struggles this season, Oakland has a good shot of getting in the former Denver quarterback’s head. If the Raiders can pressure Osweiler and force a few turnovers, they very well could move on to face either New England (No. 1 seed) or Kansas City (No. 2 seed) next weekend on the road.
Oakland Injuries Could Play Role
For Oakland, the scene just a few weeks ago looked rather rosy.
Before Derek Carr broke his right fibula, the Raiders were a game in front of Kansas City for the AFC West title. Fast forward a few weeks and it is the who are Chiefs sitting home and resting this weekend. That rest is something Oakland would have surely loved to have had.
With Cook set to lead the way, he and the Raiders’ brain trust will have to hope that guys such as Cooper (shoulder) and Crabtree (ankle) are as close to 100 percent as possible. Given the long grind of an NFL season, having one or both of those guys at 85 or even 75 percent would be better than nothing.
Cook will have one less experienced tackle to protect him, as 11-year vet Donald Penn will reportedly sit out this game with a knee injury after missing practice.
On the defensive side of things, Oakland will be without the services of safety Nate Allen (concussion), though fellow safety Karl Joseph (toe) did see limited practice this week after missing several games.
Can Raiders Win First Playoff Game In More Than A Decade?
If Oakland is to move on to the next round of the AFC playoffs, two things will have to happen Saturday. First, the Raiders and Cook will need to take the Houston crowd out of the game sooner rather than later. A tight game going into the fourth quarter can only favor the home team, though it could ramp up the pressure on Osweiler to a degree.
Secondly, Oakland will have to lean on guys such as Murray to produce some notable yardage on the ground.
In Denver just a week ago, Murray and the Oakland rushing attack all but came to a halt.
Although Houston is and should be favored at home, this is a game Oakland can certainly win, especially if one Connor Cook seizes the moment.
- (WR) Michael Crabtree (Ankle) – Limited Participation in Practice
- (WR) Amari Cooper (Shoulder) — Limited Participation in Practice
- (WR) Andre Holmes (Shoulder) – Limited Participation in Practice
- (S) Karl Joseph (Toe) – Limited Participation in Practice
- (QB) Matt McGloin (Shoulder) – Limited Participation in Practice
- (G/T) Kelechi Osemele (Ankle) – Limited Participation in Practice
- (LB) Malcolm Smith (Hamstring) – Limited Participation in Practice
- (S) Nate Allen (Concussion) – Did Not Participate in Practice
- (QB) Derek Carr (Right fibula) — Did Not Participate In Practice
- (T) Donald Penn (Knee) – Did Not Participate in Practice