The Las Vegas Raiders are 2-6 and basically out of the AFC playoff race as they are, at least, three games behind nine teams in the AFC.
Yet, they have an extremely winnable game Sunday as they host the beleaguered Indianapolis Colts. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PT. Here are five keys to the game for Las Vegas:
Outclass the Colts coaching staff:
All eyes around the NFL will be on this game. Yes, the league will be rubbernecking this train wreck game between a 2-6 and 3-5-1 teams. But the Colts are the talk of the league this week after owner fired coach Frank Reich on Monday and replaced him with Jeff Saturday. The former Colts’ star center has been an analyst for ESPN and he has no NFL or college coaching experience. Saturday’s only coaching experience is at the high-school level in Georgia. Now, he is one of 32 NFL head coaches.
The Colts have been a mess and there is likely little chance Saturday can turn that around. So, the pressure is on Raiders’ coach Josh McDaniels and his staff. Of course, things have been going very poorly for Las Vegas as it is coming off of losses to the woeful New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are really no reasons at all the Colts should win this game. The Raiders cannot blow this. McDaniels and his staff must step up and lead their team to an expected victory.
Do not let Colts’ offense do anything;
Seriously, if the Colts score in double digits, Raiders’ defensive coordinator Patrick Graham should be asked many, many questions. The Colts scored three points and had 121 yards of offense against the New England Patriots in Week 9. Young quarterback Sam Ehlinger is inexperienced and struggling. The Colts’ offensive line is a mess and running back Johnathan Taylor has been hurt, but he may play Sunday. The offensive play calls will be handled by a 30-year-old coach who has no experience calling plays. The Las Vegas defense has been rocky all season. But the Colts’ offense is not an NFL level right now. There is reason why this offense should compete in this game.
Get Josh Jacobs going:
When the Raiders’ offense was humming in a three-game stretch spanning Week 4-7, the offense revolved around running back Josh Jacobs. He had 140-plus yards in three straight games. and the Raiders were 2-1 in those games. In the past two games, Jacobs has 110 yards on 27 carries. The run blocking doesn’t seem to be as strong as it was. In this game, the Raiders have to commit to the ground game. Jacobs can do the rest. This will be important in the immediate future with receiving stars Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow on the injured reserve for at least, the next four games.
Contain Yannick Ngakoue:
This offseason, Yannick Ngakoue said he would make the Raiders pay for trading him. In March, the new Las Vegas brass sent Ngakoue to the Colts for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, reuniting Ngakoue with former Raiders’ defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Moments earlier, the Raiders signed pass-rusher Chandler Jones. Thus far, Ngakoue has outplayed Jones this season. Ngakoue has 4.5 sacks, all in the past season games. Jones has a half sack this season. Be sure that Ngakoue will be coming after Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr. Las Vegas can’t afford to let Ngakoue have a monster game.
Pressure the quarterback:
While keeping Ngakoue from taking over, the Raiders’ defense must try to get to the quarterback. The Raiders haven’t had a sack in the past two games and haven’t gone three straight games without a sack in 18 years. Las Vegas has just nine sacks in eight games, which is the fewest in the NFL. Yet, there is hope. The Colts’ offensive line allowed nine sacks against the Patriots. So, Maxx Crosby and Jones must feast.