Sitting at 1-2, the Raiders have the opportunity to get back to a .500 record this week against a banged up Indianapolis Colts squad. After dropping consecutive games in embarrassing fashion to the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings, the Raiders really need to bounce back and regain their footing.
With games against the Bears in London, and road games versus the Packers, and Texans after that, this opportunity is perhaps the best for the Raiders to get a win. Let’s take a look at how they can do just that against the Colts.
Lean on running back Josh Jacobs
In their week one match-up with the Denver Broncos, the Raiders made a point of getting the ball to their talented rookie running back. Against the Broncos, Jacobs got 23 carries for 85 yards and two touchdowns. In the next two weeks, he got a total of 22 carries, 12 against the Chiefs and 10 against the Vikings. Granted the team was losing heavily in both and Jacobs was dealing with a groin issue and an illness that caused him to lose ten pounds leading up to the Vikings game.
Regardless of circumstances, the Raiders need to get Jacobs the ball early and often against the Colts. With the Colts being forced to start two rookie linebackers with their All-Pro Darius Leonard out, this is an great opportunity for Jacobs in both facets of the offense.
Establishing the run will open up the offense for the Raiders. They will be able to control the clock giving the Colts offense fewer opportunities to score.
The team also needs to incorporate Jacobs in the passing game. He was advertised as a polished pass-catcher coming out of Alabama, yet he only has one reception through three games. That reception went for 28 yards and came in the victory against the Broncos. Point is, the Raiders need to get the rock to Jacobs and let him carry them to victory.
Win the turnover battle
The Raiders defense has struggled to force turnovers through the first three games. They have a -2 turnover ratio, only managing to force one turnover that came in the form of a fumble recovery against the Broncos.
Defensive end Benson Mayowa is the only one to have made an impact in the turnover battle. He has forced two fumbles, but aside from him, the Raiders defense has done nothing to get the ball back to their offense in good positions.
The secondary does not have an interception thus far. If the Raiders can force the Colts to play from behind, they may be able to expose why Jacoby Brissett was a backup quarterback a month ago.
If defensive ends Arden Key, Clelin Ferrell, and Benson Mayowa can get to Brissett, the Raiders secondary could capitalize on some bad throws. With Brissett’s tendency to hold the ball too long, the pass rush could also find themselves with a forced fumble or two as well.
Regardless of how it gets done, the Raiders defense needs to create turnovers and help the offense start in advantageous field position, which was another point of emphasis Gruden brought up this week.
Derek Carr gets back on track
Against the Broncos, Carr was lights out throwing the ball. He finished the game 22 of 26 for 256 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps most importantly, he did not turn the ball over. Against the Chiefs and Vikings Carr threw three picks, two against Kansas City and one against Minnesota.
If Week 1 Carr appears against a banged up Colts defense missing Leonard and talented safety Malik Hooker, the Raiders will be in a great position to walk away with a much needed win.
An easy way to get Carr into rhythm on Sunday will be establishing his rapport with tight end Darren Waller. With Leonard out, Waller should be able to abuse any match up he finds himself in. If Carr and Waller can connect early and help Carr find his groove, the Raiders offense could find its rhythm once again.
A confident and accurate Carr should be able to slice his way through the Colts secondary. With Carr firing on all cylinders the offense should find its groove, which would significantly help the defense out and put them in positions where they can succeed.