The NFL Playoffs are upon us. Since the NFL adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978, only ten teams out of the Wild Card round has reached the Super Bowl, six of which taking home the Lombardi trophy. With some tough matchups slated for this weekend, let's see who has the best keys for victory.
Raiders (12-4) @ Texans (9-7)
Raiders Keys: It's a shame what happened to Derek Carr and the Raiders. Never do you want to see a player end his season with a broken bone, especially whey they're having an MVP type of season. The Raiders can not harp on their fallen leader and will have to rely on the arm of rookie Connor Cook. Cook only game this season came in week 17 in a loss to the Denver Broncos, finishing with 150 yards and 1 touchdown his completing 66% of his passes. Latavious Murray will have to step up and be that MVP player they are missing in order to take some of the pressure off Cook. When the Raiders and Texans squared off week 11 in Mexico City on Monday night, Murray and the Raiders 6th ranked rushing attack only gained 30 total yards while averaging 1.7 yards per carry. They were still able to win the game thanks to David Carr 295 yards and three touchdowns. Without that luxury for Saturday's game, it puts more pressure on Murray and the offensive line to establish an early presence. They can not afford to have another lackluster ground game.
Defensively, they should be able to dominate. Brock Osweiler has yet to prove that he is the guy that can lead the Texans to the promise land. The Raiders front seven should be able to disrupt anything the Texans offense attempts. Osweiler has been average at best and that will not get them past the Raiders. The Raiders can not allow the Texans to establish a running game, which could help Osweiler gain confidence and make a play down the field to one of his receiver, mainly Deandre Hopkins.
Texans' Keys: This is the fourth time since 2011 that the Texans will host a playoff game (2-1) but they have been an enigma all season. They don't have much star power, a sub-par quarterback, and their best player hasn't played since September; somehow, they're still AFC South Champs. The Texans will have to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers, mainly Deandre Hopkins. Hopkins is the Texans best player on offense and one of the best receivers in the league but getting him the ball might be easier said than done. Hopkins missed 1,000 yards this season by 44 yards which you can probably blame on his inept quarterback. Lamar Miller rushed for 1,000 yards this season and was the Texans best offensive weapon in the week 11 matchup. He'll have to be that same 100-yard for the Texans if they want to be successful on offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Texans are in the same predicament as the Raiders with an opportunity to take advantage of a sub-par quarterback. Texans will get a chance to prey on a rookie which gives them an added boost to apply more pressure than normal. Clowney is listed as questionable but all indication are leaning towards him playing. It would be nice to see Clowney have a breakout performance in his first career playoff game. Clowney lead the Texans with 12 tackles for loss and was second on the team in sacks with 6. While they are decent numbers, those are not the numbers that you want to see from your #1 pick. With Watt out, this is Clowney's chance to prove his worth and that he is not a bust.
Who Got the Keys?: This is a tough game to decide and thats because Derek Carr is not playing. Connor Cook is the first quarterback to make his first start in a postseason game, and that could sway your decision either way. The team with the best running game and defense will be victorious, and on paper that looks like the Raiders. The Raiders have been more consistent all season. Even without Carr, the Raiders are more trustworthy than the Texans.