Here's a preview of the AFC wild-card matchup between the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Texans.
When: Saturday, January 7, 4:35 p.m. ET on ESPN
Where: NRG Stadium
THREE THINGS TO KNOW:
1. New quarterbacks: Both teams are expected to play quarterbacks who didn’t become their teams’ starter until late in the season. Tom Savage, assuming he clears the concussion protocol after suffering a head injury in the season finale against Tennessee, became the Texans’ starter in Week 16 after the team benched Brock Osweiler. Houston is hoping the move would jump-start an ailing offense and particularly increase the effectiveness of receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who never developed a rapport with Osweiler. For the Raiders, the quarterback switch to Matt McGloin came after MVP candidate Derek Carr suffered a broken fibula in Week 16. McGloin suffered a shoulder injury in the Week 17 loss to the Denver Broncos, meaning Oakland could be forced to start No. 3 quarterback Connor Cook in its first playoff game in 15 years. Ouch.
2. Mack vs. Clowney: In 2014, the Texans made Jadaveon Clowney the No. 1 overall pick. But maybe they should have taken Khalil Mack instead. While Clowney has finally emerged this year after two injury-plagued seasons, Mack has already developed into one of the NFL’s best pass rushers and is a leading candidate to win defensive player of the year. With questions on offense for both teams, this is a chance for both pass rushers to have big days – and their teams are certainly counting on it.
3. O’Brien hot seat: The Texans are seeking some playoff redemption after a 30-0 blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium last year. That flop, combined with the failure of Osweiler, has put plenty of pressure on head coach Bill O’Brien. It’s rare that a coach gets fired after consecutive playoff appearances, but the Texans might be at the point where change could come with another early postseason exit.
Follow Lindsay H. Jones on Twitter @bylindsayhjones.