A pair of resilient, playoff hopefuls will clash on Sunday in a win-or-go-home affair. The Indianapolis Colts (8-7) host the Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) as they attempt to accomplish what they couldn’t just two seasons ago down to the week. For the 3rd consecutive week, the Colts will be a part of a backup QB battle.
This time around, it’s Gardner Minshew versus rookie QB Aidan O’Connell. Perhaps his veteran savviness will be enough for Minshew to outduel O’Connell, however, as is most teams’ gameplan with a backup QB, the Raiders’ offensive identity is to run the football. This battle of the trenches will inevitably open up some passing lanes to diversify each’s game plans, therefore it’s likely whichever defense shines brighter will result in a win for their team.
LB Cameron McGrone (illness) has been downgraded to OUT. WR Michael Pittman Jr. (shoulder), WR DJ Montgomery (groin), RT Braden Smith (knee), and CB Kenny Moore II (back) all remain QUESTIONABLE.
RB Josh Jacobs (quad) is officially listed as DOUBTFUL after not practicing all week. TE Michael Mayer (toe) is officially OUT. C Andre James (ankle) and OT Jermaine Eluemunor (knee) are listed as QUESTIONABLE.
Team Stats to Monitor
- 20th in passing offense
- 13th in rushing offense
- 10th in PPG
- 14th in passing defense
- 28th in rushing defense
- 11th in turnover differential
- 23rd in passing offense
- 31st in rushing offense
- 25th in PPG
- 11th in passing defense
- 22nd in rushing defense
- 21st in turnover differential
Similar Offensive Identities Collide
Raiders superstar WR Davante Adams will always be a priority to maintain defensively, though just a week ago against the Kansas City Chiefs, this same Raiders offense got the job done behind backup RB Zamir White. The Raiders failed to complete a pass attempt after the 1st quarter but thanks to their efficient running game and stout defense, they prevailed, keeping their playoff and division hopes alive.
With Raiders star RB Josh Jacobs set to be inactive for the 2nd consecutive week, the aforementioned Zamir White game against the Chiefs a week ago couldn’t have come at a better time for the men in (silver and) black. Given the Colts are bottom-five in the league when it comes to stopping the run, chances are the Raiders look to lean on the ground game once more.
Colts Keys to Win
As alluded to, the Colts need to win the battle of the trenches this week. More specifically, winning the rush game on both sides of the ball.
After a strong start to the season, this Colts defense has struggled to stop the run down the stretch. With a litany of uncharacteristic missed tackles stacking as of late, the Colts defense will need, more now than ever, to be stout when defending the run. They’ve shown to struggle against bonafide WR1s across the league this season so this a trend that needs to end for Indy to have a chance against Davante Adams’ Raiders.
Defensively is where the Antonio Pierce-led Raiders have shined. Since Pierce was elevated as the team’s interim HC, here’s how they’ve fared amongst the rest of the NFL:
- 15.3 PPG allowed (1st)
- 4 Defensive TDs (1st)
- 24 Penalties (Least)
- 24 Sacks (5th)
- 13 Takeaways (6th)
The Colts’ offensive line will need a big day in pass protection given the previously mentioned success from this Raiders defense. Interim HC Antonio Pierce and DC Patrick Graham have turned this unit into a legit defense with superstar EDGE defender Maxx Crosby leading the way. On the other side of the line though resides Malcolm Koonce who has blossomed into a serious talent off the edge.
Recently added cornerback via waivers, Jack Jones, has played very well since he joined the team and LB Robert Spillane has remained a consistent piece for this Raiders defense all year. Gardner Minshew, Shane Steichen, and the rest of this Colts offense will have no easy test as they look to right the ship.
Offensively, the Colts have been as inconsistent as possible over the last handful of games. To establish sustainability moving forward, Indy needs to find its run game again and that starts with star RB Jonathan Taylor. Taylor has yet to eclipse 100+ yards rushing this season but has done so in each of his previous 3 games against the Raiders. These are different teams nowadays, but with Zack Moss out for Sunday’s matchup, Taylor will need a patented game of his to breed life back into this resurgent Colts team.
The Colts’ offensive starters WR Michael Pittman Jr. and RT Braden Smith are both on track to play Sunday, however, they appear to remain a game-time decision. Either one being active is massive news for this Indy offense as Pittman Jr. is sorely needed to make the Colts passing game go, whereas Braden Smith is an anchor for the run game. If both play, Indy’s chances for offensive success skyrocket.
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