HOUSTON VS OAKLAND PREVIEW By Brad Lorkovic (LORK 88) We’re doomed, we’re screwed, we’re picking #1 overall. Now that I have your attention (even if most of you think I’m dead on the money with that first sentence), time to quit thinking about the past and start looking to our next opponent, the Oakland Raiders. While on paper our teams look evenly matched, Oakland has been having problems within the organization for awhile now. Their Offensive Coordinator got demoted, players questioning players, even Head Coach Art Shell lashing out against an unnamed member of the organization. Even with all that turmoil, Oakland has lost the last 3 games by 7 or less. So what ends up happening this game: do we lose because we overlook the Raiders as we point and laugh thinking this game will be too easy, or do we come out victorious because we show heart and want to finish the season right? Houston’s Running Game vs. Oakland’s Run D: Simply, put Oakland’s rushing D is horrible. In a sense, they’re built for the pass only which is one reason why I figure their rushing D is so terrible and ranked 25th overall. The other part of it is that they’re very young as well. On the D Line, Sapp is the big body in the middle. However, we must treat him as more because he’s still being disruptive this season getting penetration to break plays. The other DT spot is occupied by 2 DTs: Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands. Kelly is the more athletic one of the two while Sands is the big body used on running plays more. At DE are Derek Burgess and Tyler Brayton. Brayton is not very athletic, but big and strong. Burgess on the other side is an animal at getting to the QB and plays the run pretty well too. He uses his quickness to negate his small size. At LB, Kirk Morrison is the 1st player who draws attention. Drafted in 2005 from a 3rd round pick Oakland received from us, Morrison has been stout in his play, especially against the run because he is a tackling machine. He plays downhill and likes to hit. The other 2 LBs are Thomas Howard and Sam Williams. Howard is the rookie who’s very athletic (scouts considered him a possible SS) while Williams is inexperienced because of various injuries. Coming out for the draft, one of Howard’s weaknesses is reading and reacting to plays. As for Williams, he looks more like he was built for the 3-4 defense. For us, we need to focus on looking for cutbacks. Their DL is more built for the pass, and their LBs are athletic but inexperienced. Therefore, I think if we could get them to over pursuit, we could break off some big runs. Because of Lundy quickness and change of direction, I can see him being the RB who has the biggest day. Houston’s Passing Game vs. Oakland’s Pass D: Like I stated above, Oakland’s D is built to play exceptionally well against the pass. They’re secondary is young, but doesn’t play like it. In a sense, their pass D is similar to Buffalos in that they were also young, inexperienced, but talented. At CB, are Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington. Nnamdi started his career of slow, but has burst onto the scene this year becoming a ball hawk. He’s become a good all around CB and has size and speed too. Washington is the other CB. He’s got blazing speed and can jump routes, but takes a lot of chances on routes and isn’t a great tackler. As for the Safeties, Schweigert is the FS and rookie Michael Huff is the SS. Schweigert is a great tackler and hitter, and in a sense is an additional LB. He’s decent in coverage, but most known for his sound tackling. Huff is still learning at this level and is a rookie in the sense that he makes rookie mistakes, but still flashes his athletic ability and playmaking skills. He’s a big hitter and is solid in coverage. As far as pass rushing, their best rushers are Derek Burgess and Sapp. Burgess is very quick and shifty while Sapp is good at getting a jump on the ball and very disruptive. Outside of that, Oakland still isn’t a very disruptive pass rushing team. For us, the key will be using bootlegs and play action passes to keep the defense honest and to hopefully catch them over pursuing. Johnson and Moulds should have a good challenge this game so I can see Lundy and Daniels seeing more passes this game. Oakland’s Rushing Game vs. Houston’s Run D: For some reason, our run D has been better with Thomas Johnson and Maddox than it was at the beginning with Travis Johnson and Payne. They did well against Buffalo and held the Jets to 27 yards rushing. Good news, bad news however. Bad news is Thomas Johnson won’t play this week. Good news is neither will LaMont Jordan. Their run offense isn’t that bad, but nowhere close to being good. Their RB in place of Jordan will be Justin Fargas, a 4th year RB out of USC. He’s got decent size, and is best known for being an outside runner who has great speed. His problem is he needs to be more patient and use more vision rather than relying on speed. The other RB receiving carries should be Zach Crockett who’s actually an athletic FB who doubles as a short yardage runner. Their O Line is very big and strong, but doesn’t move as well as they should and look like they lack chemistry when they play. Gallery is out for the game and Barry Sims could be as well. That leaves Center Jake Grove as their leader on the line who is a tenacious blocker on the run. Overall, I think the main emphasis needs to be on keeping plays inside where I feel they will struggle running the ball the most. Our DEs need to do a good job of containing the run, as do our OLBs. It should be a productive day for us if we play like we can. Oakland’s Passing Game vs. Houston’s Pass D: What can be said about our pass defense that hasn’t been said already? However, this week we have a chance to redeem ourselves against a pass offense that’s ranked last in the league. Aaron Brooks is back at QB after weeks of injuries. So far this season, he’s been inconsistent and plays like he’s rattled (which is credited to being sacked 12 times in 3 games). At WR, Brooks isn’t getting much help. Moss is one of the best talents at WR in the NFL, but has been dropping passes and is frustrated with the organization. The other WRs who will be catching passes are Ronald Curry and Alvis Whitted. Curry is fast, athletic, and has good hands, but is constantly injured. Whitted is also very fast, but has never been productive in his 9 seasons in the NFL. The TEs will be Courtney Anderson and Randal Williams. Anderson is athletic and is big, but struggles getting open and being a factor. Williams is a great receiving threat, but isn’t a great blocker. For us, the main key will be keeping plays in front of us. Moss is still Moss, and we shouldn’t underestimate his speed or talent. This week will really test our safeties; our CBs will be relying on their help all day. The best idea is to disrupt their routes by pressuring Brooks. Oakland has given up 53 sacks all season (most in the NFL) so there’s no excuse for not getting to Brooks. Force him to play inconsistent and we should be fine. Position Battle QB Advantage: HOUSTON RB Advantage: PUSH WR Advantage: HOUSTON TE Advantage: HOUSTON OL Advantage: PUSH DL Advantage: PUSH LB Advantage: PUSH CB Advantage: OAKLAND S Advantage: OAKLAND K/P Advantage: OAKLAND RET Advantage: OAKLAND Key Factors To The Game 1) Don’t give up big plays. Moss is capable of always going deep as he has before, but Oakland isn’t a team that usually has big plays on offense. You may be asking yourself why it’s on here then, but in all honesty this is more a battle for us rather than for Oakland. Call it being bitter from Buffalo still, but we can’t have a repeat of that game ever again. We have found ways to give up big plays and we need to stop them from happening so we can stay in the game and not get our hopes down early on. 2) We’ve got to get a pass rush this week. The last 2 weeks, we learned the hard way that nobody in our pass defense can be counted on (other than Dunta). Because of that, I’d rather put the pressure on our pass rush to give them as much help as possible and hopefully force some turnovers. Brooks is by no means a great passer, so we have no excuse to not play the pass well. However, Oakland’s O Line is one of the worst in the NFL so our D Line needs to come up big so we don’t even have to make our DBs do anything. 3) Maximize opportunities. In the past, I’ve put finish drives, no turnovers, and various keys of the same nature, but I’m just going to combine them and say maximize opportunities. In other words, no missed Field Goals, no fumbles in the red zone, no INTs, or anything of that nature. We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot lately and it has came back to haunt us before. Let’s just maximize the opportunities we have so we don’t have to worry in the 4th quarter as always.