Houston Texans (6-3 SU, 5-4-1 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (7-2 SU, 6-3 ATS)
Week 11 NFL
Date/Time: Monday Night Football, November 21, 2016 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: HOU +5.5/OAK -5.5
Over/Under Total: 46
In Mexico City on Monday Night Football, the Houston Texans take on the Oakland Raiders in a battle of AFC contenders. The venue of the game is a cause of some concern to our overall handicapping, but both teams will be subjected to the same thing. And those who have been in Mexico City before can attest the affects of the super-high altitude. It can get you woozy walking down the street, but in a football game, it can really be a factor. Again, both teams are facing the same set of conditions on MNF. At the same time, the Raiders have shown a far-greater ability to thrive away from their home digs, having already won five road games this season, while the Texans have struggled away from Houston.
Oakland is coming off the bye week, which followed a 30-20 win over the Broncos which was their third win a row. At 7-2, they are tied atop the AFC West division with the Chiefs. They look to add another notch to what has been a transcendent first-half of the season for the long-struggling Raiders. But they will be facing a Houston team that never seems to get their full level of rightful respect. The defending AFC South champs are 6-3 and look postseason-bound again this season. It wasn't easy on the road this past week for the Texans, as it seldom is, but they managed to beat the Jaguars, 24-21, in their first game back from the bye. Can they go into Mexico City and handle a high-flying Raiders bunch?
The Texans are a strange study. Usually by the time a team is 6-3 and coming off a division title, it's pretty easy to spell out why they're a good team. With Houston, the answer is a bit murkier. And that's not a bad thing at all. If anything, it suggests an underlying team-cohesion, solid coaching, and solid leadership in the huddle and sidelines. Their offense is the 30th ranked unit in terms of total yardage. Their defense is ranked as the 4th overall unit, though they are a more mid-pack 12th in terms of points allowed, which is really the bottom line. They can't stop the run very well. So, it's sometimes unclear how they've gotten this far. But that misses the point.
Houston is a team that gets a lot out of what they have. At under 60% completions and a modest 10-9 touchdown-to-interception rate, Brock Osweiler has been up-and-down this season. At times, he struggles in moving this offense. Other times, he has been clutch and come through in a pinch. He has a good running back in Lamar Miller, but aerially, Osweiler has struggled on occasion. And opposing defenses have singled out star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is well off his pace in terms of overall production. And it's worth noting their 3-point win over the lowly Jaguars on Sunday was their first road triumph this season. So far this season, even including the win on Sunday, they've been outscored on the road, 116-46.
The defensive front for Houston has been pretty good in getting after the quarterback even without the services of JJ Watt, with Jadaveon Clowney and Whitney Mercillus having good seasons, Vince Wilfork missed the game last week and they're hoping to have him back in there this week. Brian Cushing and surging Benardrick McKinney have made for a playmaking duo in the middle. And the secondary is one of the best in the league, with Kareem Jackson, Andre Hal, Jonathan Joseph, Quintin Demps, and others making life hard on opposing quarterbacks. Against the high-flying Oakland offense, they're going to need all the help they can get.
Key to the Raiders success this season is the balance they've been able to achieve on offense. They are 7th in the pass and 4th in rushing, making them a top offense this season in the NFL. Derek Carr has been excellent, completing over 66% of his throws with a 17-to-3 touchdown/interception ratio. Latavius Murray has sprung to life recently and the Raiders average 4.8 yards a run. The passing-game is stocked, led by Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and a bevy of role receivers who deliver more often than not. They've scored at least 30 points in their last 3 games and look to be getting better. The O-line has been pretty good in springing the run game, while keeping Carr out of trouble. They'll need to be at their best against this Houston defense this week.
The Oakland defense can be exploited. They are the 28th-ranked defense and especially leaky against the pass. They're not all that great against the run, either. They average nearly 25 points a game allowed. But a few things can make that equation a little more tolerable, as the Raiders defense is clutch, saving their best play for when the situation is at its most critical. To begin the season, they were utterly horrible. All they need to do is not be that bad. If they can continue playing clutch ball and making key plays, things could actually work out.
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It's hard to not like what the Raiders are doing, even if you don't particularly like the Raiders as a team or organization. Twice, bold coaching moves by Jack Del Rio were key in getting the Raiders the win. They're a team that really goes for it and leaves nothing on the table. Houston's resourceful play and strong defense could serve to be the right antidote, but I see the Raiders serving more notice that they are for real this week south of the border.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Oakland Raiders minus 5.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Houston vs. Oakland MNF game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!