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Raiders-Colts: What’s the key to stopping Gardner Minshew and Colts offense?

5 questions with Stampede Blue

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons
Gardner Minshew
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders Week 17 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts is a crucial one as both teams’ playoff odds significantly decrease with a loss, especially for the Raiders. Before the big game, Chris Sheperd of Stampede Blue answered a few questions about the Colts for Raider Nation, sponsored by DraftKings Sportsbook.

Question: From the looks of it, the Colts have been up and down this season. So what is the difference between their good and bad performances? Also, how are you feeling about their playoff chances?

Answer: Calling them up and down is absolutely fair. The difference between the highs and lows, at least offensively, has come down to how well teams have done stopping the run. Now this is an oversimplification, but for the most part when teams have dedicated resources to stopping the run and dared Gardner Minshew to beat them with his arm, well, he can’t.

It would be unfair to not point out that Minshew has been better since the bye, however, we saw again last week against the Falcons when a team limits the Colts on the ground, Minshew can’t do enough to score points on his own.

Defensively, your guess is as good as mine.

Some weeks they look like an above-average unit that does a good job stopping the run and rushing the passer. They’ve forced turnovers in all but one game this season. They’re also giving up the 4th most points in the NFL.

Back in Week 3 they played Lamar Jackson tough and limited the Ravens to 19 points. They did what you’re supposed to do against bad offenses like the Panthers, Patriots and Steelers and allowed an average of just under 11 points per in those games.

On the other hand, they’ve also given up season-high points totals to the Browns (39), Saints (38), Jaguars (37), Titans (28), Bengals (34) and Falcons (29). The defense has struggled, a lot, over the back half of the season.

Q: On a similar note, what have you seen from Garnder Minshew this year, and is there a chance he will return to Indianapolis next season when Anthony Richardson is healthy?

A: Gardner Minshew has proven his value as a backup. I wouldn’t mind if the team brought him back and I wouldn’t mind if they gave him a top-of-the-market backup deal, either. With that said, it also wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they brought in a quarterback with a skill set that more similarly matched Anthony Richardson’s.

The offense now is night and day different from the offense that Richardson was running during the early part of the season and it’s just due to the fact that Minshew can’t run that style of offense.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Minshew brought back as QB2 with the Colts using an early day three pick on an athletic quarterback in the NFL Draft. Richardson has talked some about learning from Minshew when it comes to preparation and film study and the team may feel that it’s important to keep Gardner around for those things, if for nothing else.

But if anyone was wondering if there’s a chance that Minshew starts over a healthy Anthony Richardson in 2024, having watched both of them play every snap this season, the difference in talent is immense.

I can’t point to anything that I feel Minshew would be even slightly better at had Richardson been on the field for the entire season. Richardson started in 13 Division One college football games and played in four NFL football games in five weeks. Through five weeks Anthony Richardson’s team led the league in explosive play rate. Gardner Minshew needed Kenny Moore to have two pick-sixes to beat the one-win Carolina Panthers.

3) How much has Bernhard Raimann grown from his rookie season, and how do you think he stacks up against the Raiders’ edge-rushers—Maxx Crosby and Malcolm Koonce—who have been playing really well recently?

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Carolina Panthers
Bernhard Raimann
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Raimann has come a long way. You saw it over the back half of last season too, as he started to settle into his role in the NFL. In the offseason, he noticeably gained weight and came into camp heavier than in his rookie season. He has responded by looking like a top-10 left tackle. To be fair, he’s absolutely closer to 10 than 1, but for a second year, former third-round pick Raimann is playing at a very high level. I never find myself worried about Raimann, his growth has been very impressive.

That said Minshew really loves to run himself into trouble so I’m sure Raimann has been credited with giving up a few sacks. Minshew tends to escape clean pockets and last week he stood in the pocket for what seemed like days until it eventually collapsed in on him, but outside of those moments, Raimann was solid.

How will he fare against the likes of Maxx Crosby? It’s Maxx Crosby. Raimann will probably get beat. But that has less to do with Raimann and far more to do with the fact that Crosby beats everyone. Elite pass rushers win reps against everybody, that’s just how it goes and as impressive as Raimann has been, he’s still just a second-year pro. I hope he holds his own but I hold no illusions that he’s going to pitch a shutout.

4) Defensive tackle Deforrest Buckner is one defensive player that really concerns me as he’s been one of the league’s better defensive tackles for several years now. What’s the key to keeping Buckner in check?

Buckner is very good. He usually gets a lot of attention and usually that keeps him in check. It also opens things up for the other guys on the defensive line, but as I talked about earlier it hasn’t always worked out that way for the Indy defense this season.

If you double Buck, he isn’t someone who is going to consistently beat that double team. If you can double him and then win those one-on-one blocks with the rest of the line, you’re going to have a good time. If you leave Buck one-on-one against most interior offensive linemen, eventually you’re going to have a bad time.

He’s long, he’s quick and he’s strong but put two hats on him and force the Indy defensive line to beat you in other ways.

5) The Raiders are coming off a big win in Kansas City but are three-point underdogs this Sunday on DraftKings Sportsbook. How do you see this one playing out and can you give us a score prediction?

I think the reason for the points being what they are is just due to how these two teams match up. Last week the Falcons came into the game as an excellent run-stopping team and that played out in the game as the Colts offense had no answers for it. It seems like the books are banking on the Raiders run defense being worse than the Falcons was a week ago. It’s also important to note that the Colts will likely get WR1 Michael Pittman Jr. back after missing last week’s game with a concussion.

I think the Raiders have more success on offense than they have for most of the season but I expect the Colts offense to look better than it did a week ago. The Colts don’t have any mid-30s tight ends dating any pop stars, so there aren’t as many distractions, their offense isn’t going through any kind of identity crisis and somehow Gardner Minshew isn’t throwing the kind of terrible interceptions that Patrick Mahomes threw last week, so I see this one being a close, back and forth game with a lot of points scored on both sides with the Colts pulling out a late 27-24 win at home.