Last week’s win in San Diego clinched them a spot in the playoffs. The win combined with the Chiefs loss in Tennessee has the Raiders back atop the AFC West and in line for a top seed in the playoffs. They need to protect their home field Saturday in order to retain their position in the race.
Meanwhile, the Colts are still fighting for their playoff lives. They sit at 7-7, one game back of the Texans and Titans in the division. A loss in Oakland would end their playoff hopes.
A quick look at the Colts schedule reveals quite a pretty crazy pattern. Since week two of the season, this is what their season has looked like L, W, L, W, L, W, L, W, bye, W, L, W, L, W. If you are into patterns, that would mean the next game is an L. However, if you aren’t into patterns, you might note that they have won 4 of their last 6 games.
Let’s go with the latter, because that’s actually real.
After a 1-3 start to the season, the Colts are playing some of their best football.
One of those losses on their schedule was without Andrew Luck, who was out with a concussion. With him, they have won four of their last five games. Two of those wins came against another two other hot teams in the Packers and Titans. The other two were complete blowouts of the Jets and Vikings in which they outscored their opponent 75-16.
These Colts are not to be taken lightly, and they are playing far better of late than their 7-7 record suggests.
For that reason, it’s hard to compare these two teams based on season rankings on offense and defense.
One area the Colts have struggled with much of the season is protecting Luck. The Colts have given up 40 sacks this season which is tied for 3rd most in the league. However, Luck has been sacked just twice in the past three games which has helped him to put up 8 touchdowns to two interceptions.
As you might expect, this team lives and dies by Andrew Luck. The Colts have won 6 straight games this season when he has a passer rating of over 90. They are 1-6 when he was below that mark or was not in the lineup.
One area that hasn’t improved of late for the Colts in their run offense. Frank Gore looks to finally be running down. Over the second half of this season, he has seen just one game in which he averaged even a shade over 4 yards per carry (4.1). And it was in a loss.
Many times this season the Raiders run defense has been the cure for what ails a struggling run game. They will get some an infusion of help this week with the return of Mario Edwards Jr to the lineup.
Edwards is a strong run defender who will be rearing to go and ready to prove himself once again. For that reason, I think he will play with maximum effort. The question becomes if it will take him a game before he gets back into the swing of things. Regardless, his presence will be a welcome help to the league’s fourth worst run defense.
For the Raiders’ part, they are far from one dimensional. They are among the league’s best in both run and pass offense and Derek Carr has several good weapons to work with.
Luck has TY Hilton and not much else. Although, Hilton is a fantastic option with and AFC best 1248 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns.
Slowing down that combo will have to take top priority for the Raiders. It could mean always offering safety help over the top to whomever is covering Hilton and consistently sending pass rushers at Luck.
Other story lines:
Location: Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland CA
Game time: Saturday, December 24, 1:05 pm Pacific (4:05 pm ET)
TV channel: CBS (Do I get the game?)
Online streaming: NFL Game Pass (Live audio, replay after it's over)
Radio: 98.5 KFOX (Greg Papa, Tom Flores) | Full listings
Match-up history: Raiders lead series 7-6 (all time), 3-4 in Oakland/LA, streak lost 4, last win 2001.
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Enemy blog: Stampede Blue
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