The Indianapolis Colts (8-7) host the Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) Sunday in battle of playoff hopefuls. This will be the fourth consecutive battle of sorts for Indy as their recent stretch has been comprised of all playoff contenders. The Raiders have seemingly refused to be counted out which says a lot about how Interim HC Antonio Pierce has them playing, especially defensively.
The Colts have been wildly inconsistent on offense the past handful of games as opposed to the Raiders who have dominated defensively, serving as the NFL’s hottest defense in recent weeks.
Outside of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indy’s run game has stalled out as of late. Of the last four contests, the Colts have logged the following yards per carry averages:
- @ TEN: 2.4 ypc
- @ CIN: 2.6 ypc
- Vs PIT: 5.0 ypc
- @ ATL: 3.7 ypc
Conversely and as alluded to, Raiders Interim HC Antonio Pierce has the men in black firing on all cylinders down the stretch. The team is 2-2 over their last four games and 4-3 overall with Pierce leading the charge. The most impressive part is how they’re playing defensively.
Hard to overstate how well this Raiders defense has been playing lately pic.twitter.com/Lbms2UIPtF
— Chris Ballard is My Daddy (@VeveJones007) December 28, 2023
This Raiders defense has allowed just 13 PPG over their last four games and has forced 7 takeaways during their current 2-game win streak. There isn’t a defense playing a higher level right now and Colts HC Shane Steichen and his staff know it.
Unfortunately for the Colts, Antonio Pierce also knows a thing or two. Pierce recognized in a recent interview how he views the Colts offense. When asked about the identity of the Colts he said,
They’re a team that wants to be physical. They want to run the football, let’s not be fooled by that.
As true as that may be, the Colts have to execute. As previously mentioned, the Colts offense has shown promise on the ground this season but has struggled to turn it into a sustainable game plan. The philosophy of throwing to score and running to win can only be executed when the ground game finds a happy medium and Indy needs to discover that once again.
The Trey Sermon/Tyler Goodson game against Pittsburgh was the headliner of the aforementioned promise shown in the run game, however, Jonathan Taylor needs to get going soon if Indy wants to remain in the playoff picture. Taylor has yet to log 100+ yards on the ground this season, but his time may and should be due as he’s historically fared well against the Pirates from Vegas.
Jonathan Taylor versus the Raiders:
2020: 22 touches, 165 yards, 2 TDs
2021: 21 touches, 114 yards, 1 TD
2022: 24 touches, 163 yards, 1 TD
Indy is 2-1 in those games. At least 100+ rush yards & 1 TD in each for JT.
— Noah Compton (@nerlens_) December 28, 2023
Once upon a time, whenever Jonathan Taylor rushed for over 100 yards, the Indianapolis Colts won. That odd statistic reigned true for 10+ games but maybe it’s time destiny steps back in as the Colts desperately need it. Whether or not Braden Smith and/or Michael Pittman Jr. suit up against the Raiders, the Colts need to reestablish continuity on the ground and that begins with Jonathan Taylor.
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