The world waited with baited breath all year long for a chance to bet against Brock Osweiler and the world was denied on Saturday because the Raiders were forced to start Connor Cook. The good news for everyone is there's a likely opportunity to bet against Brock in a road playoff game against Bill Belichick.
It's a salivating situation made possible by the Texans' 27-14 win over the Raiders in the wild-card round on Saturday, but it's also worth noting that the Texans defense is the real unit that earned another shot. Romeo Crennel's group was the reason Houston advanced into the divisional round, likely to play against the Pats, the outcome of Miami-Pittsburgh pending. (The Steelers winning sends Houston to New England, the Dolphins winning sends Houston to Kansas City.)
It's hard to properly grade what Houston did, considering Cook was under center and starting left tackle Donald Penn was ruled out before the game. The Raiders weren't the same once Derek Carr went down in Week 16. But the Texans defense is legitimate. Jadeveon Clowney is a Pro Bowler and continued to emerge as a budding superstar for Houston on Saturday night.
Whitney Mercilus piled up a pair of sacks, two quarterback hits and three tackles for loss. Corey Moore added an interception. A.J. Bouye picked off a late pass to seal the game. The defense generally perplexed Cook and the Raiders offense throughout the afternoon.
They just won't. Cook had more interceptions on Saturday than Brady had all season long.
That's not an indictment of Cook, either. He's just not Tom Brady. Most people aren't. And the Raiders played, at best, a C+ game. They dropped a ton of footballs, couldn't protect Cook and dealt with injuries.
But if you're Houston, you take this game, remind everyone how good the defense can be and focus on the fact that, as cliché as it might be, you're taking it one game at a time.
It's a single-elimination tournament when the playoffs start. You just need to make some plays. Probably need to make a few extra if they want to secure a third game in the postseason though.
Here are three more takeaways from the Raiders-Texans wild-card playoff game.
2. Brock n' Roll
If you thought the epic playoff experiment with Osweiler might end, well it won't. Bill O'Brien confirmed immediately following the game that Osweiler would start at quarterback next week.
Bill O'Brien announces Brock Osweiler will start next week— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) January 8, 2017
That's fascinating because Osweiler, who signed a $72 million contract in the offseason, only got his job back because Tom Savage suffered a concussion in Week 17. Osweiler was benched for Savage earlier in the season with the Texans slipping out of playoff contention and Savage promptly helped them limp to a division title.
Osweiler, interestingly, was not totally terrible on Sunday. He completed 56 percent of his passes and averaged 6.7 yards per attempt. He threw a touchdown and didn't throw an interception or fumble the ball. He tossed a couple balls into tight windows and had a beautiful deep pass down the field to DeAndre Hopkins.
Yes, that noise was millions of fantasy owners groaning in disgust because this NEVER HAPPENED DURING THE REGULAR SEASON.
Osweiler still got flustered when he felt pressure, but he was actually able to pick up some yards with his feet instead of getting sacked on Saturday. At one point he strolled into the end zone on a bootleg.
The Texans were lucky to get away with a B- game from Osweiler (which might be friendly grading). They're going to need a better effort if they want to beat their next opponent.
3. Remember the Raiders
This game should be no indictment of Oakland, and its 2016 season. Only the sad realization that a once-great season, which featured 12 wins and Oakland's first playoff berth since 2002, came crashing down quickly when Derek Carr broke his leg. Oakland isn't to blame for having Matt McGloin and Cook on the depth chart (and McGloin was injured too) and not being able to go on the road and beat Romeo Crennel's defense.
That's just too tough of an ask.
While Houston's defense will get plenty of attention for the game and people will point at the struggles of the Raiders offense, don't discount what they did in the regular season. Their year basically ended when Carr went down -- they got outscored 62-20 after Carr's injury.
It was a special season, though, from the moment that coach Jack Del Rio decided to go for two late against the Saints, right up through a series of improbable, Carr-led comeback victories late in the year that kept Oakland in the playoff hunt.
Winning 12 games was shooting the moon for this Raiders squad and it's proof positive for a strong future.
4. Clowney comin'
Former first-round pick Jadeveon Clowney has a nose for the big moment. In his penultimate year with the South Carolina Gamecocks, Clowney captured the nation's attention with a helmet-rocking hit against Michigan that people wouldn't stop talking about for a year.
His NFL career started slowly due to injury but Clowney was a monster in 2016, earning a Pro Bowl nod for a fantastic season. He showed up in a huge way on Saturday during the Raiders-Texans wild-card game too, producing an incredible interception off a tipped pass from Connor Cook.
That's really Clowney in a nutshell. An absolutely athletic freak of nature who makes flash plays but is criminally underrated in terms of his ability to make fundamentally sound disruption, whether it's in the run game or disrupting passing lanes.
It wasn't hard to flashback to an interception made by a different Texans defensive lineman, one J.J. Watt, when the Texans were in the playoffs against the Bengals. Watt snatched an Andy Dalton pass in mid air and promptly took it to the house.
Clowney didn't take his interception to the house, but the level of difficulty was like a 14 out of 10, given the multiple tips to himself needed to make the pick.
It also immediately led to a Lamar Miller rushing touchdown that gave the Texans a 10-0 lead. In a game with points at a premium, you can't put a price on a defensive turnover near the other team's end zone.
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