NFL Wild Card Weekend
Oakland Raiders vs Houston Texans Preview
The highest-profile position on the field also will be the one surrounded by the most question marks when the Houston Texans host the Oakland Raiders on Saturday afternoon in the opening game of NFL Wild Card Weekend (Enter contest). Oakland is down to its third-string quarterback in rookie Connor Cook while Houston turns back to Brock Osweiler, who was benched three weeks ago.
The rematch from Week 11 will have a decidedly different look after Derek Carr broke his leg in Week 15 and backup Matt McGloin injured his left shoulder in the regular-season finale. Carr was responsible for the 27-20 rally this season win over the Texans in Mexico. He collected two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in that game. That leaves Cook in line to become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have his first career start occur in the postseason. It will be a welcome development for the AFC South champions’ top-ranked defense. Osweiler started the first 15 games for the Texans before losing his job to Tom Savage. Savage ended up suffering a concussion last week to give Osweiler a second chance.
ABOUT THE RAIDERS (12-4)
Oakland will be making its first postseason appearance since reaching the Super Bowl in 2002. They will be hoping to rally around Cook, a fourth-round draft pick out of Michigan State who finished 14-of-21 for 150 yards with a touchdown and an interception in last week’s loss at Denver. Cook was inactive for the first 15 games of the season. The Raiders have the league’s No. 6 rushing attack at 120.1 yards per game and likely will try to ease the pressure on Cook by featuring a heavy dose of Latavius Murray and rookie DeAndre Washington. Defensive end Khalil Mack has recorded 11 sacks for a unit that ranked last in the league with 25.
ABOUT THE TEXANS (9-7)
Osweiler came in the season a high-priced free-agent signee but failed to manage expectations. Coach Bill O’Brien finally ran out of patience with Osweiler after he tossed a pair of interceptions against lowly Jacksonville on December 18. Savage is under the NFL concusion protocol, which means Osweiler gets an opportunity to erase the memory of a year ago. He was benched in Denver’s regular-season finale in favor of Peyton Manning, who promptly led the Broncos to the Super Bowl title. The Texans received a boost when running back Lamar Miller practiced fully on Wednesday after missing two games with an ankle injury. He rushed for 1,069 yards this season.