It took 256 regular season games, but we’ve finally whittled down the 32-team NFL field to just 12 teams that have rightfully earned their place in the 2016-17 NFL playoffs. Now, all that stands between these teams and eternal glory as Super Bowl LI champions is four games (three for four teams with a first-round bye) and it all starts with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday afternoon. Throughout the NFL playoffs, we’ll be breaking down each game right here, with a special emphasis on the most important things, like who might win, why, and most importantly, by how many points. All lines and spreads are courtesy of Westgate Sportsbook.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: In a quarterback-driven league, the two teams kicking off Wild Card Weekend on Saturday afternoon are severely lacking at the position, to put it gently.
When the Raiders and the Texans square off in Houston it’ll be Brock Osweiler — who was benched for Tom Savage two weeks ago — against Connor Cook, who has a total of ZERO career starts to his name.
It might not be pretty, or high-scoring, but it’ll certainly be captivating.
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans – Sat. Jan. 7, 4:35 p.m. ET
Spread: Texans -3.5
Spread: The Oakland Raiders offense has been one of the best in the league all season long with Derek Carr at the helm, but the fate of their talent-laden offensive unit might mirror that of the team they’ll see across the gridiron from them on Saturday.
Yes, without their regular season MVP, the Raiders’ offense and the Texans’ offense are stunningly similar; great wide receivers, solid tight ends, solid running backs with great receiving ability, solid/above average offensive lines, but no quarterback to make it all click.
Connor Cook had an impressive college career and the Raiders actually moved up in the 2016 NFL Draft to get him in the fourth round in what was considered a curious move at the time, but that hardly matters when your first NFL start is coming against a Top 5 defense on the road in the playoffs. You just can’t bank on the Raiders’ offense to put it together against the Texans here.
But what can you count of from the Houston Texans’ offense?
Not much, either.
Sure, the Raiders’ defense ranks 23rd against the run, but Lamar Miller is banged up and only had five rushing touchdowns this season and just four 100-yard rushing games on the year.
On top of that, if there’s anything that Osweiler’s proven this season, it’s that he still has a whole lot to prove. At the very least, it’s not his first start in a big spot, but it’s still his first playoff start, and with his inconsistency it’s hard to trust him either, but he’s a safer bet than Connor Cook in terms of him having a full working knowledge of the offense and the advantage of having first-team reps all year, so the edge — albeit, slight — goes to Houston.
On defense, it’s far more one-sided. The Texans are a far superior unit and have kept Osweiler and the Texans’ offense in basically every game this year. The Raiders’ defense had their offense bail them out more often than not, which makes Carr’s absence even more glaring.
At home, against a rookie QB starting his first game ever, the Texans are the play. Texans -3.5
Total: For all of the reasons mentioned above, this should be a low-scoring game. 36.5 is a low total, but I think the combination of dueling conservative gameplans from both coaches and my hunch that the Raiders’ defense steps up in the absence of their star quarterback to keep this tight most of the way makes the under the play here. Under 36.5
Final: Raiders 13, Texans 17