Let’s look at five keys to victory for the Raiders:
Bring the “A” game
It should go without saying that if the Raiders don’t play at their very best, they won’t win this pivotal game. The Colts aren’t an elite team, but they are good. Still, the Raiders are more than capable of beating Indy. If the Raiders play like they did in their home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11, they will win.
Yet if the Raiders are sloppy on both sides of the ball and commit stupid penalties, like they did in the past two games, they stand a chance to get embarrassed by the Colts.
Regain ground game groove
When the Raiders run the ball well, they usually win. During their three-game winning streak spanning Weeks 8 through 10, they ran for a combined 572 yards. However, in the current three-game stretch — where they’ve gone 1-2 — the Raiders have only run for a combined 201 yards.
Jon Gruden is hopeful starter Josh Jacobs will return after missing a game with an ankle injury, which will help. But running the ball won’t be easy: the Colts have the sixth-best run defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 100.9 yards per game.
Get to Philip Rivers
This will be Philip Rivers’ 29th game against the Raiders, the most of any opponent. In recent games against Rivers’ Chargers, the Raiders have controlled the QB, but it will be more difficult this time. The Colts have allowed the third-fewest sacks in the NFL this season. The Raiders’ pass rush has struggled against good lines, they must find a way to make Rivers —who is 39 and who is dealing with a toe injury — uncomfortable and force him into making turnovers.
Indianapolis defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is a game wrecker. He has to be a focal point for the Raiders’ defense. The Las Vegas offensive line has struggled the past couple of weeks, but right tackle Trent Brown should return for this game and that will help. Containing Buckner is a must.
Stop the run
The Raiders have struggled against the run most of the season and the sad-sack Jets ran all over them last week. The Colts have rookie running back Johnathan Taylor, who can be dangerous. If the Colts get the ground game going, Rivers will be even more dangerous calling the plays.