Houston Texans (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (0-1 SU, 1-0 ATS)
NFL Football Week 2
Date and Time: Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 4:25pm EST
Where: O.Co Coliseum, Oakland, California
by Scott, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: HOU -2.5/OAK +2.5
Over/Under Total: 39
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On Sunday, the Houston Texans make the trip to the west coast to take on the Oakland Raiders. Houston took care of business in week one with a 17-6 win over the Redskins. The Raiders, meanwhile, lost on the road to the Jets in a 19-14 game that wasnt quite as close as the score indicates.
The Texans were coming off a 2013 season that ended with 14 straight losses, so it was uplifting for new head coach Bill OBrien to get the win. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been derided a lot in his career, but he was efficient enough on Sunday, going 14-for-22 for 206 yards and a touchdown with no picks. While they only scored 17 points, seeing Arian Foster gain over 100 yards on the ground offered promise, as did the emerging two-headed monster in the passing-game of Andre Johnson and blossoming DeAndre Hopkins, who had a 76-yard touchdown pass on Sunday.
More encouraging was the Houston D. They learned that number-one pick Jadeveon Clowney will be out with a torn meniscus, which is a hard blow for this unit to absorb so early in the season. Still, they held Washington to a scant 6 points, despite the Redskins out-gaining the Texans in terms of yardage. They still have a playmaker in JJ Watt manning the edge and he was fantastic on Sunday. While its doubtful the Texans can return to the form they showed a few years ago, they wont be anywhere as bad as they were last season.
Oaklands week one loss was a disappointment, even though they covered the spread. They were hanging in there, before fading out in the second half, with a late Raiders touchdown making it 19-14. Derek Carr got off to a blazing start, completing his first 7 passes, before fizzling out and not connecting with much anybody in the passing game. He was 20-for-32 with two touchdown passes, but 151 yards isnt going to cut it when your run-game is not firing. Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden were held to 26 yards on 13 carries on Sunday.
You dont want to grade Oakland too harshly, however, after facing a Jets home D that looked in peak form. Houstons defense also looked formidable, but the Raiders should have it at least a little bit easier this week. Maybe not by much. Its a tough way for a rookie QB to begin his NFL career. It might help him later, but facing two really good defenses in your first two weeks is a trial by fire and we might not see the best Derek Carr. But with this improved offensive line, things should come around a bit.
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Its just that while Houston has a top-five running back and a nice 1-2 punch at WR, Oakland has no real identity on offense. Theyre working in a rookie QB who needs to rely on a running game comprised of guys whose name-value probably exceeds their actual merit at this point with McFadden and MJD. The receiving game added James Jones and Greg Little to go with Rod Streater, Danarius Moore, and TE Michael Rivera but its a group made of complimentary pieces without a top number-one guy.
Oaklands D showed on Sunday it could become a mid-pack unit, which is a vast improvement from last seasons form. They gave up 19 points, which would be lower if not for the somewhat freak breakout run from Chris Ivory. They have now lost 7 straight games going back to last season. For their fortunes to change, they need the additions of Justin Tuck, Lamar Woodley, Antonio Smith, Khalil Mack, Tarrel Brown, and Carlos Rogers to resonate positively on a revamped defense. They need Carr to transition to the pro game and develop some camaraderie with his pass-catching crew. And their 1-2 punch at RB must come around.
Houston saw good signs on Sunday, but things will get more difficult at some point–maybe this week. Can their secondary step up from last season? Will Fitzpatrick be enough in a league where seemingly every good team has a star QB? Will a surging cast of skill players be able to prop him up? Again, first signs were positive, but time will tell.
Game two in an NFL season is difficult. At this point in the season, all you have to go on is the first game. But its just one game. If it were the 9th game, for example, you wouldnt be putting this much emphasis on the 8th game. Going off of week one, Houston is a team that will dust themselves off after a tough season and contend for a postseason spot, while Oakland is who theyve been for a while–a team that will spring forth a good performance here and there, but basically a bottom-quarter team in the league. This could all end up being true in the end, but did an operationally dysfunctional Redskins team maybe make Houston look better than they are? And if this Jets D ends up being the goods, Oaklands performance on Sunday might not look so bad down the road.
Im of the feeling Oakland will look a lot better this week. Look for a pumped-up Raiders team at home, eager to show that the good offseason moves have made them better. A tough game seems inevitable with the result up in the air toward the end. Ill take the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting the Oakland Raiders plus 2.5 points.