Derek Carr
USA Today

Raiders have chance to make statement vs. Texans

The Oakland Raiders are 3-3 and in the thick of the AFC playoff picture. Simultaneously, few believe in them as legitimate postseason contenders. That can change on Sunday.

Oakland is in Houston to take on the Texans, a 4-3 outfit trying to bounce back after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Raiders are also coming off a defeat, being trounced 42-24 at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. With a tough game against the Detroit Lions coming next week, the Raiders can make their picture much rosier with a win in Texas.

To this point, the Raiders have beaten the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts. While the Colts certainly qualify as a good opponent, none of the three Oakland wins have come against a top-tier quarterback. Without question, beating Deshaun Watson on Sunday would represent a new ceiling for the Raiders and their young defense.

Additionally, consider the AFC West. The Los Angeles Chargers were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender but are 2-5 and hanging on by a proverbial thread. Los Angeles now plays Chicago at Soldier Field this weekend before hosting the Green Bay Packers. After that, a Thursday night affair with the Raiders in Oakland.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs are leading the Raiders by 1.5 games in the West but are dealing with a slew of injuries. Patrick Mahomes is dealing with a dislocated kneecap that will sideline him for Sunday night’s marquee showdown against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Kansas City will also be without defensive tackle Chris Jones, defensive end Frank Clark, left tackle Eric Fisher, left guard Andrew Wylie and slot cornerback Kendall Fuller. In short, the Chiefs are a MASH unit trying to beat a team with only one loss.

Should Oakland be able to pull the upset in Houston, there’s a real chance it is only a half-game back of the Chiefs, with Kansas City having to take on the Minnesota Vikings off a mini-bye next weekend.

This is the opportunity for the Raiders to climb back into the divisional race and certainly stake a claim in the wild card conversation. A loss here isn’t devastating but reinforces the idea Oakland is good enough to beat bad teams and middling quarterbacks and not much else. Ultimately, that won’t go far, even in the weak AFC.

 

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