AFC Wildcard: Oakland Raiders @ Houston Raiders
Start-time: Saturday 7 January, 21:35 GMT
TV: Live on Sky Sports
I was so excited for this one. A chance to watch Matt McGloin in one more big game after seeing every snap he took as a Nittany Lion (that's Penn State for non-US college football fans). Alas Connor Cook is set to get the nod for the Raiders due to McGloin's shoulder injury and he goes up against the $72 million bust Brock Osweiler. Have we ever had a worse playoff Quarterback match-up? Answers on a postcard...
Let's start with the Texans. Perennial winners of the pitiful AFC South division. Once more they've limped into January but instead of facing a team that will stomp all over them, they have lucked out with the Raiders QB crisis. They've had QB issues of their own with the ineffective Osweiler replaced by Tom Savage in Week 15. However he's now out with a concussion so they'll go back to the 6ft7" man who threw for more interceptions than touchdowns in his first full season as a starter (16 to 15).
Houston have no real running game of note although they do have a couple of receivers who can stretch the field in DeAndre Hopkins and rookie Will Fuller V. After two straight years of over 1,000 receiving yards, Hopkins regressed to just 954 with Osweiler at the helm. The Texans will go as far as their defense will take them, their offense is used mainly to give their D a breather.
As for Oakland, it all looked rosy until Christmas Eve came. Derek Carr broke a bone in his foot and their hopes of going deep didn't completely evaporate but these windows do seem to have a lot of moisture on them. They'll need to rely heavily on the running game.
I saw a fair bit of Connor Cook in college due to my BigTen affiliations and saw him win big games. Well, I type that, but what I should type is I saw him not lose big games. The only way they come through on Saturday is if he doesn't turn the ball over in crucial spots.
As I'm expecting the defenses to be on top, it is no surprise that I'm casting my eyes at the price for both teams D/ST to score at anytime. Houston are at 7/2 and Oakland at 5/1. Both of those I think are value prices.
For the first TD scorer I'll take Latavius Murray at 8/1 for Oakland and Brock Osweiler's comfort blanket C.J. Fiedorowicz at 9/1 for Houston.
The line has been set at 36.5pts and how can you argue such a low number? Osweiler was deemed not good enough less than a month ago that they turned the reins over to Tom Savage and he will see Khalil Mack zeroing in on him all evening. Connor Cook has never started a game in the NFL and gets to see Jadeveon Clowney running at him at full speed. He's lucky that JJ Watt is injured at least. The line is so low that the Sportsbook is trying to force you to take the over but don't. This is a rare unders pick.
The spread is set at Houston -4pts which I think is about right. I trust neither QB and like both Ds to keep this close. Had Matt McGloin got the nod then I'd be all in on the kid out of West Scranton High School. However, he's not expected to go with a shoulder injury so I'm going with Houston 16-10 Oakland. Houston to cover the four point spread then, only to be thrashed by whoever they face next weekend.
3pt Back Houston to win -4 points at Evens on the Sportsbook
3pt Back under 36.5pts at 20/21 on the Sportsbook
3pt Back Houston D/ST to score at anytime at 7/2 on the Sportsbook
3pt Back Oakland D/ST to score at anytime at 5/1 on the Sportsbook
1pt Back Latavius Murray to score the first TD at 8/1 on the Sportsbook
1pt Back C.J. Fiedorowicz to score the first TD at 9/1 on the Sportsbook