The week after a disappointing loss is a big one.
Many expect the Oakland Raiders to get blown out by the Houston Texans after the disappointing loss at home to the New England Patriots. But the real truth here is that the Raiders have a good chance to come out with the victory in Houston.
There few things that the Raiders are going to have do and do well to come up with that victory.
Turn the page to see what they are.
The Raiders have gotten a huge break from the Texans already with Andre Johnson out with a hamstring injury. That is one headache that the Raiders' banged up secondary doesn't have to worry about.
To be honest, I can't say I would have given the Raiders much of a chance in this one had Andre Johnson been healthy.
There would have been times Johnson would be matched up on Stanford Routt, and I'm okay with that; it's when he's matched up with rookies Chimdi Checkwa and Demarcus Van Dyke that scares me.
Second-year corner Joe Porter on Johnson would be even worse, but thank goodness that won't be happening.
That's one key in favor of the Raiders already.
Louis Murphy has practiced twice this week and it looks like he's going to go on Sunday. It would be nice for the Raiders if Murphy could just step in and be the clutch deep threat he has always been.
He's actually been the Raiders' leading receiver from wideout since coming to Raider Nation in '09. But at the very least, it gives the Raiders depth at receiver and gives the Raiders options to go with empty backfield sets.
Another burner to go deep to wear the Texans corners out is good enough though.
With Andre Johnson out, the Texans are likely to go to tight end Owen Daniels to move the chains. The Raiders can't let Daniels go crazy in the secondary—otherwise, the Texans will be able to move the chains on third-down situations.
They were consistently torched by New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller in their win against the Jets. But the Raiders need to show that they can consistently shut down the tight end the way they did the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski in Week 4.
Not only would Daniels be a big key to Houston winning, but it would give the rest of Oakland's opponents a game plan as well.
Mike Mitchell, who played for the first time this season against the Patriots last week, looks ready to go again. That will go miles toward the Raiders being able to slow down Daniels, as Mitchell covers the tight end well.
Tyvon Branch looked better in coverage last week, but I just don't trust him on tight ends like I trust Mitchell. Covering tight ends isn't all I trust Mitchell more than Branch in doing.
More on that in a bit.
The Texans don't cover the tight end very well, so Kevin Boss should, and needs, to have a big day. The Texans will likely be preoccupied with the run and the deep ball, giving Boss an opportunity to do his thing underneath and down the seam.
I expect the Raiders to move the ball against the Texans, so hopefully, more pass plays are designed for Boss in the red zone and end zone. Trying to hit guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey in the end zone didn't work out to well for the Raiders last Sunday against New England.
I'm really looking for something from Boss this Sunday as Zach Miller had 122 yards and a touchdown on the Texans last year.
Texans outside linebacker Mario Williams is among the elite pass rushers in the NFL. That will be a tall order for Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer. But at 6'8", he is plenty tall enough, and I don't just mean his height.
Veldheer has yet to allow a quarterback sack this year as he barely allows opposing defensive lineman to get a whiff of his quarterback's scent. This will probably be the most interesting matchup of the game, and possibly one that decides the outcome.
It could also go a long way toward landing Veldheer in Hawaii at season's end. I criticized Veldheer to no end last year as his play as a rookie showed me that he would never be a franchise left tackle.
This year, I continue to sing his praises as one. Shutting Williams out cements it.
Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell has to forget about his horrendous Week 4 play and refocus. The Texans are ranked No.10 against the pass at this time but they can be had threw the air.
In their three wins, they played against a Peyton Manning-less Colts, the Dolphins, and a Steelers team with offensive line issues. They lost to the New Orleans Saints, giving up a 40-burger to Drew Brees and company.
I'm not quite sold on the Texans pass defense yet.
With Andre Johnson out, the Raiders have to stop the powerful running game the Texans have.
People underestimate what the Raiders can do against the run because of their numbers. But neither the Broncos or the ground-and-pound Jets got their running games off against the Raiders.
The Patriots and Bills were able to run on the Raiders out of the spread, but that isn't what the Texans do. They come right at you with that zone blocking scheme and running back Arian Foster.
It doesn't look so much like Raiders defensive end Matt Shaughnessy will be able to play this Sunday. Jarvis Moss is a good pass rusher but not as good against the run as Shaughnessy is.
Richard Seymour could take care of that if the Raiders move him back to defensive end. This would also allow John Henderson to take his place at defensive tackle and clog up the middle.
With the defensive line now taking double teams, Rolando McClain will have his chances in Houston. It will also be a huge help to him if outside linebackers Quentin Groves and Kamerion Wimbley can turn running plays to their side, back inside.
From there, if Raiders head coach Hue Jackson loves Tyvon Branch so much, he needs to move him to free safety. Free safety Michael Huff looks like he'll play but may be needed at corner with all the injuries.
The box is for grown men that are extremely physical, like Mike Mitchell, who is a bigger hitter and sure tackler—unlike Branch. If the Raiders don't stop the run, it's going to be a long, ugly day for them on Sunday.
The game plans of future opponents hinges upon it.
Once the Raiders take care of the run game, there will be a lot of 3rd-and-longs for the Raiders to pin their ears back and get after Matt Shaub.
Like any other quarterback on the planet, constant hits and pressure will lead to less effective play from Shaub.
I'm sure Seymour and company are ready to go for this one after a not-so-dominant Week 4 performance. The defensive line I once called murderers' row needs to step up and put the NFL back on notice.
With all of the injuries in the Raiders secondary, quarterback pressure is what the Raiders need to win.
It's more than obvious that RB Darren McFadden is the biggest key for the Raiders to win Sunday. Last time I checked, he was the biggest key for the Raiders to win every week.
The Raiders lost to the Texans 24-21 last year in part because Darren McFadden pulled his hamstring on a play that he might have taken to the house. The Texans are ranked No. 18 against the run and have yet to see a back like McFadden.
It's funny how everyone is talking about how the Raiders will struggle to stop Arian Foster.
What about the Texans stopping McFadden?
The Raiders run game could keep the Texans running game off the field.
The Raiders will have their hands full against Texans, but it is a winnable game. The Raiders need all of their big-time players to show up and get their ball on in order for the Raiders to get a big road win on Sunday.
If they do, they are sure to be put back on the contender list soon because they play against the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos consecutively at home to likely take them to 6-2.
But first, they must beat the Texans.
It won't be easy.