By Dave Thomas
With two games to go in the regular season, the Oakland Raiders know that even one slip up could cost them the much-coveted AFC West crown and possibly a first-round bye. That said, on the bright side, the Raiders are already guaranteed their first playoff berth since the 2002 season.
With that in mind, Oakland (11-3) is hoping to stay focused and begin a new winning streak after beating rival San Diego 19-16 in Week 15. The win came after Oakland had temporarily fallen out of first place in the division following its lost in Kansas City on Dec. 8. Now back to holding a one-game lead over the Chiefs with two games to go, Oakland looks to handle business on Saturday when the Indianapolis Colts come to town.
Colts Season Record 7-7
To say it has been an up-and-down season for head coach Chuck Pagano and the Colts would probably be an understatement. The team has battled injuries and inconsistent play, but are still alive in the playoff picture.
Additionally, the Colts put on a dominant performance in Week 15 when the team went on the road and thrashed the Minnesota Vikings 34-6. In doing so, Indianapolis served notice that it will not go away quietly during the final weeks of the regular season.
Colts On Offense
Andrew Luck is the key to the Colts’ offense. To date on the season, Luck has thrown for 3,631 yards and 27 touchdowns. One of the biggest concerns for the Colts is that Luck has been sacked 37 times. Having battled injuries this season, the last thing Indy’s management and fans want to see is Luck being hit.
To take some of the pressure off of Luck, the Colts’ running game turns to veteran back Frank Gore (891 yards rushing, four touchdowns). Ironically, Luck is the team’s second leading rusher with 312 yards on the ground, with back Robert Turbin adding six touchdowns.
Colts on Defense
Given Oakland’s propensity for scoring points at times during the season, Carr and Co. will look to get off to an early start, allowing the famed crowd in the Black Hole to get into it early.
For the Colts, maintaining ball control and holding a notable lead early in the game will be a key to victory for a team just hoping for another post-season invite. On the defensive side of the ball, Indy turns to the likes of D’Qwell Jackson (78 total tackles), Mike Adams (67 total stops) and Erik Walden (10 sacks).
Although Indianapolis has not always held other teams in-check this season, it did a great job allowing a mere six points on the road at Minnesota last week.
Players To Watch
The offense runs through Luck, with several weapons at both the running back and wide receiver positions. Through the air, Luck looks to connect with T.Y. Hilton (81 catches, 1,248 yards receiving, six touchdowns) and Jack Doyle (52 catches, 528 yards, four touchdowns). Saturday will be no exception. Watch for Luck to target these two players throughout the game.
For Oakland to come out of this Saturday’s game with a victory, they will need to be able to move the ball on the ground (Latavius Murray), therefore allowing Carr to set up the pass. Oakland will also need to get wide receiver Amari Cooper more involved this time around, as Cooper was held to only one catch in the win at San Diego.
For the all-time series, Oakland holds a slight 8-7 lead.