Last season Connor Cook was starting football games for Michigan State against the Maryland Terrapins. On Saturday he'll be leading the Raiders into Houston.
“(I’m) gonna go out there and have fun, just let it all hang out,” said Oakland’s rookie quarterback. “I’m obviously preparing my butt off.”
Cook is set to become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era, that's since 1966, to make his first career start in the playoffs.
“We just want him to be himself and go out and do what he can do and want our team to do what it can do,” said Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio.
What Del Rio’s team did in the regular season was rack up a 12-4 record. Their starting QB for 15 of those games was Derek Carr. But Oakland's championship aspirations took a major hit on Christmas Eve when Carr broke his leg, ending his MVP caliber season. His replacement, Matt McGloin, hurt his shoulder last week. Now it's Connor's job to cook up a new Raiders recipe for success.
“For us it's about letting one young man do his job and the rest of us worry about ours,” said Del Rio.
As for the Texans, the AFC South Division Champs turn back to Brock Osweiler under center.
“I can't wait for Saturday to be here, said Osweiler. “I wish it was here today. I'll definitely be ready to go and I'm very excited.”
Osweiler has been extremely disappointing for 9-7 Houston after signing a 4-year, $72 million contract last offseason. He was benched 3 weeks ago. His replacement Tom Savage suffered a concussion in the regular season finale. Texans head coach Bill O'Brien hopes Osweiler has grown from the experience.
“I’m sure that in some ways it's painful to go through that but in some ways the backup position may have helped him,” said O’Brien.
“When you're able to play for the fun of the game, for the love of the game, passion comes with that,” said Osweiler. “I’m getting back to the things that drew me into this football game and that's the love of it and how fun the sport really is.”
And the theater should be fun to watch.
Saturday’s game airs on ABC2. Here’s the lineup:
2:00 p.m. - NFL Championship Chase
3:00 p.m. - Postseason NFL Countdown
4:35 p.m. - Raiders vs. Texans