The Las Vegas Raiders should be saluted.
Three weeks ago, they looked completely dead. Now they have won three straight games and are at the doorstep of making the AFC playoffs for the first time in five years ... and only the second time in 20 seasons.
Let’s look at five things we learned in their impressive 23-20 win at the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday:
Best win of the season:
After falling to 6-7 after losing five of six games, the Raiders were in win-out mode. They have now beaten the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos and Colts in this stretch with a home game against the Los Angeles Chargers remaining. This was the toughest task in the final stretch.
The Colts were red hot — winners of three straight games and six of their past seven games. But the Raiders handled their business with their best overall win of this season. It was incredibly impressive and this suddenly very-much looks like a playoff team. I wouldn’t necessarily have said that after the Browns’ and Broncos’ wins. In those games, they made plenty of mistakes and barely beat depleted teams. But this game was different. The Colts are a good team and the Raiders were the better team for the most part on Sunday. If they play this way against the Chargers next weekend, they are going to the playoffs. This team has been so clutch in close games. The Raiders, who have won the past thee games by a total of nine points, are 6-2 in one-score games and 3-5 in other games.
Daniel Carlson is 13 for 14 on FGs for #Raiders in final 2 minutes of regulation and OT. Only miss was vs Jaguars in final game in Oakland— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) January 2, 2022
For most of December, the Raiders’ playoff odds were long. But now it is simple: if the Raiders can win at home next week against the Los Angeles Chargers, they will be in the playoffs for the first time in five years. There is a chance the Raiders can qualify for the postseason with a loss next week, but the easiest (and most likely) path is with a win in a very winnable game.
Surviving the turnovers:
The Raiders committed two more turnovers on Sunday, two Derek Carr interceptions and he almost had a third. The Colts didn’t commit any turnovers. The Raiders lost the turnover battle against Cleveland and Denver and still won. It is something that hasn’t happened in the NFL in almost 60 years. The Raiders, who have led the NFL in turnovers since Week 9, are living dangerously — and while it’s not killing them, it’s no way to live. They must secure the ball better next week.
#Raiders are first team to win 3 straight games w/ TO margin of -2 or worse since the Bills in 1964— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) January 2, 2022
Taylor streak is over:
Colts stud running back Johnathan Taylor had 108 rushing yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Yet, it was the first time in 10 games this season that Taylor (who leads the NFL with 1,734 rushing yards) rushed for at least 100 yards and the Colts still lost. They are 0-6 in games he didn’t rush for 100 yards. Last year as a rookie, Taylor had 150 rushing yards in a 44-27 Colts’ win at Las Vegas. Taylor had his moments, but he didn’t take over Sunday’s game.
Big day for Zay:
Raiders’ wide receiver Zay Jones had his best game of the season with 8 catches for 120 yards and he made some clutch plays. Jones has come on of late with 25 catches in the past four games, he is helping this offense. Stud Raiders slot receiver Hunter Renfrow had seven catches for 76 yards including a touchdown and a big play that set up the game-winning field goal. He went over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time. With star tight end Darren Waller possibly playing next week, the Raiders’ passing game looks to be in good shape at the right time.