Texans-Raiders: Five matchups to watch

Texans-Raiders: Five matchups to watch
November 16, 2013, 5:00 pm
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3 and Out: Kubiak to coach from press box

(USA Today Images)

The Texans (2-7) are hosting the Raiders (3-6) at Reliant Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Here are five matchups to keep an eye on as the game unfolds.

1. Matt McGloin vs. Texans pass rush
The Texans got some very good news on Saturday, when the Raiders ruled starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor out for Sunday’s game. Instead, undrafted rookie free agent Matt McGloin will make his first NFL start.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips called Pryor the “biggest, fastest quarterback in the league” but instead, the Texans will see a guy with very minimal NFL experience, a guy who didn’t even have that great of a career at Penn State. But McGloin is careful with the ball, he threw just five interceptions in 446 attempts last year for the Nittany Lions.

The best way to get a young quarterback off his game is to blitz and bring pressure, get him out of his comfort level early. Phillips will dial up some interesting looks for McGloin on Sunday.

2. Antonio Smith/J.J. Watt vs. Lucas Nix
According to ProFootballFocus, Raiders left guard Lucas Nix is the worst guard in the NFL. He has the lowest rating at negative-35.1, five full points worse than the Buffalo’s Colin Brown. He is the 71st ranked guard out of 71. His grade is the worst of all NFL players on PFF.

He’ll be matched up against Antonio Smith for most of the game but will get his fair share of J.J. Watt too. That means that at some point on Sunday, we will see PFF’s top-graded player (Watt, 61.3) against the lowest (Nix, -35.1).

3. Case Keenum vs. Charles Woodson
This is an example of a lot of experience vs. very little experience. Keenum is making his fourth NFL start, while Woodson is making his 213th. Woodson isn’t a Pro Bowl player anymore but he’s still playing well. Woodson is second among active leaders with 56 career interceptions. He’s behind one guy: Ed Reed (remember him?) with 61.

Keenum hasn’t thrown an interception this season but has come darn close a few times. He needs to be careful on Sunday.

“Yeah, a couple of those probably, especially during that time of game, I need to give our guys a chance,” Keenum said. “Honestly, there’s been a few times I’ve been lucky.”

4. Darryl Sharpton vs. Rashad Jennings
The Raiders are without their feature back, Darren McFadden, who has never played a full season. But filling in for McFadden will be Rashad Jennings, who has been productive in 2013.

Jennings has run 71 times for 330 yards, good for a 4.6 yards-per-attempt average, which ranks eighth in the NFL. This isn't anything new for Jennings. In 2010, he averaged 5.5 yards per attempt with 84 carries with the Jaguars.

With Joe Mays’ being a game-time decision, newcomer Jeff Tarpinian might have to make a spot start. That means that Sharpton will need to be stout against the run game to pick up the slack.

5. Brice McCain vs. Rod Streater
Kareem Jackson is a game-time decision but he wasn’t able to practice all week because of a chest injury. If Jackson doesn’t go, McCain will start outside, which could be a big problem; he didn’t play well at all filling in for Jackson last week.

Johnathan Joseph, who is coming off a big week against Larry Fitzgerald, will blanket Denarious Moore, which will leave McCain on Streater.

Streater isn’t the best No. 2 receiver in the league but he can stretch the field and that seemed to be what McCain struggled with last week. Streater has 29 catches and three have gone for more than 20-plus yards.

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