Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jack Dempsey/AP/Shutterstock (13400614ar) Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce (31) is tackled by Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson during the second half of an NFL football game, in Denver Texans Broncos Football, Denver, United States – 18 Sep 2022
Houston Texans (1-3-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (1-4)
Game Time: Sunday October 23, 3:05 p.m. CT
TV/Radio: KHOU-11 (CBS)/ KILT-AM 610/KILT-FM 100.3/KLOL 101.1FM (Spanish)
What’s at stake: Both teams need wins to get back into their division races. The Texans are two wins behind division leader Tennessee, but are 1-0-1 in the division so far and have the opportunity to make up ground. The Raiders’ road is more difficult as they have a pair of four wins teams in their division, but they have the potential to make a run for a playoff spot if they can put together a string of consistent outings. A loss this week for the Raiders would all but crush their chances of getting back in the playoff hunt.
When the Texans have the ball: RB Dameon Pierce has solidified himself as the Texans’ best offensive player. His workload has gradually increased as the season has progressed; look for him to get the ball early and often. Pierce leads the NFL in broken tackles with 18. WR Nico Collins has established himself as an athletic weapon who can elevate for 50-50 balls and be a true compliment to Brandin Cooks. QB Davis Mills must regain his form and consistency from the final five games of last season and show he can be the man for the Texans going forward.
When the Raiders have the ball: WR Davante Adams is one of the best in the NFL, and his former college teammate QB Derek Carr will look to get him the ball often, most likely vs. Texans rookie CB Derek Stingley Jr. RB Josh Jacobs has rushed for at least 140 yards in consecutive games. He will be a severe test for the Texans’ suspect run defense.
Key Texans to watch:
CB Derek Stingley Jr.: Stingley had his toughest game of the season working against the Broncos’ Courtland Sutton in Week 2. He will get an even bigger test this week, as he will likely be matched up with Davante Adams for most of the game. Adams is one of the elite route runners in the NFL, and he leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards over the past five seasons. Adams has gone over 100 yards in each of his last two games and has five touchdowns so far this season.
QB Davis Mills: Mills desperately needs a breakout game to get on track, and the Raiders are 24th against the pass defensively. Las Vegas also allows a league-worst 82.4% red zone conversion rate. Coming off the bye with time to analyze film, make adjustments, and get better connected with his receivers, this is as good a time as any for Mills to finally show the promise that he flashed in the final five games of 2021.
RT Tytus Howard: Howard will be responsible for blocking the Raiders’ top pass rusher, DE Maxx Crosby. Crosby’s six sacks are tied for second in the NFL, and his 11 tackles for loss lead the league. This will be the most important matchup for the Texans offensively. Howard must protect Mills to give the Texans QB time to make plays against a suspect secondary.
RB Dameon Pierce: Pierce has established himself as the Texans’ best offensive weapon, but he will face the league’s fifth-best run defense Sunday. The Texans’ offense has not shown the ability to consistently produce if Pierce is not having success running the ball. Pierce will need to utilize all of his physicality to create room to run versus a very stingy Las Vegas rush defense that allows just over 103 YPG.
The Bottom Line: The Texans should have at least two more wins than they currently have, and maybe three, but their inconsistency has been their biggest problem. They will need to find that consistency on offense through the air this week against a team with a tough run defense, and they will need to button up their own defensive weaknesses against the run and in covering an elite receiver to earn a win against the Raiders on the road Sunday. A win keeps them in the race in the slow-starting AFC South. A loss, while not crushing, puts them one step closer to reaching that point.