The Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans kick off the playoffs of the NFL season on Saturday. Both teams come into the wildcard game without their star players and how they cope in their absences will decide the outcome of this matchup at the NRG Stadium.
While the Oakland Raiders, playing their first playoff game since 2002, suffered a debilitating loss when their star quarterback Derek Carr, who was having a stellar season, was ruled out through injury, the Houston Texans will have to deal without their best defender in JJ Watt.
Having done well to get to the playoffs, neither team will want to see their season end on Saturday. "It's unfortunate for them that they lost the quarterback, but hey it was unfortunate for us losing JJ Watt," Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said. "So you got to line up and you got to go play."
Playing on Saturday for the Raiders will be Connor Cook, who, when Carr was in the middle, was the third choice and will now become the first ever quarterback to make a first NFL start in the playoffs.
"We are going to start Connor this weekend," Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, whose side had a superior record to the Texans at 12-4, said. "We want him to just be himself and go out and do what he can do, and then want our team to go out and do what it can do.
"You do the best you can regardless of the circumstances. I think, to me, it's a great opportunity. You have these great opportunities in life to be at your best, and you get these great challenges. So, how do you respond?
"What we want to do is respond like men and go in there full of energy and belief and fight our butts off."
Houston, who finished the regular season with a 9-7 record, will do the same, no doubt, and with a more established quarterback in the middle and home advantage to go with it, this is a game the Texans should really be able to win. However, in the postseason, the Houston Texans haven't always impressed, so the Raiders will look to take advantage of that vulnerability.
"They're an all-around team," Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said of the Raiders. "Offensive line is good. You have key wide receivers that are Pro Bowl guys. Running backs, they have a great running back and a great quarterback. Defense is playing good. Everything was good about the team.
"I felt like they were a total team (in the regular season). You know a team either has an offense or a defense, they have both."
When to Watch Live
Raiders vs Texans is set to begin at 4.35pm ET (9.35pm GMT, 3.05am IST).
Live Stream and TV information:
USA: TV: ESPN and ABC. Live Streaming: Watch ESPN.
India: TV: No live coverage.
Mexico and Latin America: TV: ESPN. Live Streaming: ESPN Play.
UK: TV: Sky Sports 1. Live Streaming: Sky Go.
Australia: TV: ESPN. Live Streaming: Foxtel.
International, including India: Live Streaming: NFL Game Pass.