Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders: What to Watch For


The Indianapolis Colts are on the road again to face the Oakland Raiders on Christmas Eve this Saturday.

There is a very real chance that the Colts will have absolutely nothing left to play for by the time they take the field on Saturday afternoon. They can sort of play spoiler to the Raiders, but they’ll still make the playoffs even with a loss (but probably won’t end up with the two seed).

The Colts need the 2-11 Jaguars to defeat the Titans in order for the Colts playoffs hopes to live. At least the game is at Jacksonville, if that’s worth anything.

The most disappoint thing about this season, and there are so many to choose from, is that the Colts had it well it hand multiple times and completely blew their chances. They should have beaten the Lions in Week 1. They realistically should have beaten the Jags in London. They had the game against the Texans in Houston locked up and choked it away. And should have easily stepped on the Texans in Indy to lock up the division.

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They managed picked up unlikely wins in Green Bay and Minnesota. But it didn’t matter because of those ugly losses.

For years the Colts have dominated a terrible division, but those teams got slightly less terrible over the past couple years and it has made all the difference. The Colts aren’t a good team. They have a few good to great players, but they aren’t the kind of guys who make you change your entire gameplan to beat them. And before you disagree, Peyton Manning was that guy. The AFCS teams built heavy rushing attacks to keep him off the field and stocked up on defense to try and beat him. But it didn’t work.

Andrew Luck has had a fantastic season, it’s a shame he was snubbed for the Pro Bowl (but will likely go as an alternate). But his supporting cast on both sides of the ball is lacking.

All of that said, there is still a chance and the Colts could once again be playing for coach Chuck Pagano’s job, for whatever that’s worth.

Here’s what fans should be watching for:

  • He’s over 1,000! Frank Gore is perilously close to breaking 1,000 yards rushing. It would be the first time a Colts player did so in approximately 52 years (actually since 2007). Gore needs just 109 yards to break the 1,000 yard barrier. Oakland is mediocre against the run (and on defense in general)  but it isn’t likely he gets it this Sunday. That said, the Colts need to get Gore and the running game going early to spark the offense and keep the Raiders defense honest. It would also mean history for Gore to hit 1,000 for the ninth time in his career, putting him in rare company with greats like Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders (all Hall of Famers).
  • The Mack. Khalil Mack is fifth in the NFL with 11 sacks this season. He’s the kind of player that demands a double team, and not, say one-on-one blocking from a tight end. Last week the Colts kept Luck from being sacked and it wasn’t a surprise the offense was suddenly dominant. They’ll need a similar performance to pull off the upset, and that starts with keeping Mack away from Luck. This is where the Colts can get a little more creative
  • What to stop? The Raiders have a very good offense. Their passing game is top five in efficiency and the ground game, while spotty, always has a chance to explode. The Colts completely shut down the Vikings last week and it started with run defense. The Colts have to make opponents one dimensional in order to win. Derek Carr is turning into a very good QB, but he can be inconsistent. He also will likely have a less than 100-percent Amari Cooper, which means the Raiders will probably lean a little more on the ground game.
  • Mirror-image. The 2016 Raiders are almost the exact same as the 2013 Colts. They have seven comeback wins this season and their defense thrives off one pass rusher. They’re also led by a talented young QB who is starting to find his groove. If those parallels mean anything, the Raiders will be smacked around by the Patriots in the playoffs.