Monday Night Football Preview: The Raiders and Texans Face Off in Mexico
In a game to be played in Mexico City, the AFC West leading Raiders (7-2) are winners of three straight while the Texans (6-3) lead the AFC South and ride a two-game win streak into this matchup.
This game pits strength against strength on one side of the ball, as the Raiders' offense comes into this game ranked as the league's fifth best, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics. Meanwhile, the Texans' defense ranks eighth in our metrics.
According to our nERD metric, which measures just how good a team actually is based upon their expected point differential against a league average team, the Raiders are the slightly better team entering Week 11.
The Raiders (1.12 nERD) enter Monday Night Football sitting in 14th in our rankings. The Texans (-1.51), on the other hand, check in at 21st.
As kickoff nears, here are four storylines to watch on Monday Night Football.
Will Latavius Murray Stay Hot?
Since missing two games with a turf toe injury, Latavius Murray has seen double-digit carries in each of the past three games. He's averaging 4.5 yards per carry over that span while scoring 5 touchdowns.
Entering the season with concerns that rookie DeAndre Washington may eat into his workload, Murray saw no more than 14 carries in a game over the first four weeks. Over the past three, Murray has exceeded that total twice.
By using our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which measures how many points a player adds to his team's expected point total, we see that Murray has been one of the more efficient backs in the league this year.
Entering Week 11, Murray's 0.13 Rushing NEP per rush ranked second among the 45 running backs with at least 50 carries, trailing only Jay Ajayi (0.21) in that metric.
Additionally, Murray sports a 48.31% Success Rate, which ranks fifth among those same 45 running backs. Our success rate metric measures how many runs result in positive NEP.
If Murray stays hot and has another productive week, he'll be doing so against the Texans' 13th-ranked run defense, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics.
A Tough Matchup for Derek Carr
Now in his third year, Derek Carr has improved each year and is in the midst of his best year yet.
Entering Week 11, Carr was seventh in the league in passing yards with 2,505. He's completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions on the year. He has thrown for multiple touchdowns in four out of nine games and only once -- last week against the Denver Broncos -- has he gone without throwing a touchdown pass.
According to our metrics, the Raiders' passing attack has been the seventh-most productive in the league, but this week, Carr and company face a stiff test in the Texans' pass defense, which ranks as the fifth-best in the league. On the season, opposing quarterbacks are throwing for only 196.8 yards per game against the Texans, the third-fewest.
What's Up With Lamar Miller's Workload?
Over the past three games, Lamar Miller has played fewer than 50 percent of the Texans' offensive snaps after playing more than 65 percent of the snaps in each of the Texans' first six games.
Miller missed a small portion of last week's game with an ankle injury, but he returned in the second half. In the weeks prior, he dealt with a shoulder injury, although that didn't cause him to miss a game. Miller is no longer listed on the injury report and declared himself good to go for Monday night.
Entering Week 11, Miller's -0.03 Rushing NEP ranks tied for 23rd among the 45 running backs with at least 50 carries. His 36.9% success rate ranks 35th in that same group of backs.
Alfred Blue has been ruled out for Week 11, leaving Miller to compete with only Akeem Hunt and Tyler Ervin in the backfield for snaps. Hunt played for the first time this season last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars and carried 8 times for 52 yards.
This week, head coach Bill O'Brien said Hunt brought a "spark" to the Texans' running game.
Whether it's Miller resuming his workhorse role or Hunt seeing more work, the Texans have a favorable matchup in the running game, facing off against the Raiders' 29th-ranked run defense, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics.
Brock Osweiler's Continued Struggles
We highlighted Brock Osweiler's rough season in this column a few weeks ago as he prepared to return to Denver and face the Broncos.
Osweiler threw for only 131 yards in that Monday night contest, and in the Texans' following two games, he has continued to struggle. Last week, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Osweiler failed to pass for even 100 yards. Despite the limited production, Osweiler did toss 2 touchdowns as the Texans prevailed 24-21.
Now 10 weeks into the season, Osweiler (-17.53) ranks 34th in Passing NEP out of 35 quarterbacks to attempt at least 100 drop backs, scoring better than only Blaine Gabbert (-19.21). Osweiler has thrown just 11 touchdowns this season to 9 interceptions.
This week, Osweiler squares off against the Raiders and their 24th ranked pass defense. He's also expected to get rookie wide receiver Will Fuller back this week after Fuller missed Week 10 with a hamstring injury. Although the Houston passing game has a nice matchup on paper, Osweiler has struggled in these spots previously this season.
As an aside, remember the last time Osweiler faced the Raiders? In Week 14 last season, Khalil Mack sacked Osweiler five times, surely something Osweiler would like to avoid this time around.
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