Raiders vs colts
Photo Credit: Grace Hollars/USA TODAY NETWORK

 

FSM Game Preview: Raiders vs Colts – Week 17

Franchise Sports Media

Las Vegas Raiders (8-7) | Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

 

The Las Vegas Raiders travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in another must-win game to keep their playoff hopes alive.

 

WWJD
Photo Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders had another tough week filled with tragedy after legendary head coach John Madden’s passing on Tuesday. The iconic former head coach who coached ten seasons in Oakland and won a Super Bowl during his tenure passed away at the age of 85. In his memory, the NFL has asked all the home teams to have a moment of silence to honor coach Madden.

The Raiders need a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. After winning two straight games to push their record over .500 and getting some help with the Chargers losing to the Texans in Week 16, the Raiders are in a position to possibly force a “win and in” game in Week 18 against the Chargers. This week, they could also be eliminated with a loss to the Colts and Chargers win over the Broncos.

But first, the Silver and Black have to take care of their own business against a Colts team that may be without their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, due to testing positive for COVID-19. There is an outside chance Wentz plays since the NFL and NFLPA agreed to move a quarantine from 10 days to 5. He will be a game-time decision on Sunday. Even if Wentz cannot go, the Raiders defense will have to deal with NFL MVP candidate Jonathan Taylor, who has rushed for 1,626 and 17 touchdowns on the season.

 

The Raiders offense has to stay out of 3rd-and-long situations and be less predictable on 3rd down.

 

Raiders vs Colts
Photo Credit: Raider Ramble

The Raiders were awful on third down for most of the season, but they have shown improvement in the past two games. They were 6-of-14 on third down against the Cleveland Browns in Week 15 and 6-of-12 against the Denver Broncos last week. If that trend continues, they have a shot against the Colts.

One way to make sure that trend continues is to spread the ball around. When the Raiders have a 3rd-down situation, teams know that quarterback Derek Carr is looking to throw to Hunter Renfrow. They are starting to double cover and, in some cases, bracket him in coverage. Carr has to do a better job of not singling him out and spreading the ball around to other pass catchers. Zay Jones, Desean Jackson, Bryan Edwards, and tight end Foster Moreau could see an uptick in targets and play-making opportunities.

Another way to stay out of 3rd-and-long situations is running the ball effectively. The Raiders took over the game against the Broncos in the second half on the ground as running back Josh Jacobs had his best game of the season, by far. He ran for 129 yards on 27 carries. If Jacobs can control the ball on the ground, the Raiders should be in good shape.

Lastly, as in any game, a major key to victory is to win the turnover matchup. The Raiders have led the NFL in giveaways since Week 9. They somehow survived five turnovers in the past two weeks. They need to be extremely careful with the ball against the Colts, who are the type of team that takes advantage of success. Indianapolis is second in the NFL with 31 takeaways.

This will be a critical aspect of this game.

The Raiders defense needs to continue to play the type of ball they have the past few weeks.

 

Raiders vs Colts
Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Getty Images

Stop. The. Run. The Colts’ offense starts with their monster of a tailback, especially with the flux at quarterback this week. Taylor is leading the NFL with 1,626 rushing yards, and he is a league MVP candidate. Taylor gutted the Raiders last season in a 44-27 Colts’ win in Las Vegas by running for 150 yards on 20 carries. The Raiders’ run defense has been strong the past two weeks, both wins. They will need to dial up another run-game defensive gem this week.

This would be a game that would be perfect for a player like Darius Philon or Johnathan Hankins to play in. Philon still would have to clear COVID-19 protocol, and Hankins would have to show he is healthy enough to play. Philon had a career game last week while filling in for Hankins, with three-run stops. If both players can play, expect to see the two of them on the field at the same time this week as the former has the size and experience to play as a three-technique.

Another name to watch is rookie Divine Deablo. Starters Denzel Perryman and K.J. Wright are on the reserve/COVID list, while reserves Cory Littleton, Will Compton, and Patrick Onwuasor are in the same boat.

Deablo has been excellent against the run since he started receiving more playing time in Week 13. In the last four weeks, he has six stops against the run and ranks eighth with an 83.7 run defense grade, and that’s after a quiet performance against Denver.

If the Raiders can repeat their impressive defensive performances on the ground from the last two weeks, Las Vegas will put themselves in a great position to win the game and keep their playoff hopes alive. The Raiders need to remember the mantra and follow it by any means necessary for the final two games of the season: “Just Win Baby!

 

The Raiders and Colts play Sunday at 10:00 am at Lucas Oil Stadium and can be seen on CBS.

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-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on Twitter @joearrigofsm

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