Did the Raiders win the game or did the Jets lose last week on the final play? It probably depends who you ask.
Mainstream media and the Jets mainly blame the play caller Greg Williams who was fired after the winless Jets stayed that way. However, Vegas pass protected, made the throw and completed the pass.
Either way, you probably screamed as Ruggs III went in for the game winning touchdown. It was a high feeling that came in a game where we all wondered WTF. There’s a universe somewhere not too far where these Raiders gave the Jets their only win. So much for talk about playoffs.
Still, the Raiders are lucky they can still talk about playoffs after that narrow victory. Sure, they played with a lot of injuries including Josh Jacobs sitting out.
Regardless competition goes up this week as they take on the Indianapolis Colts. Indy is duking it out with the Silver and Black for Wild Card position. Damon Armette and Jeff Heath are out, Daryl Worley enters from free agency. Josh Jacobs and Jonathan Abram are both questionable after missing last week too. Isaiah Johnson could also be out which makes the secondary even more depleted.
What the Raiders do got going for them is a familiarity with QB Philip Rivers as he was in their division a long time. Jonathan Hankins was already talking smack after the Silver and Black dominated Rivers twice last year when he was with the Chargers. Colts starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo could also be out with a questionable designation.
Speaking of, Clelin Ferrell battled COVID for a few weeks and came back with aoms new pass rush skills. Ferrell was crucial in two fumbles versus the Jets. That’s exactly the performance the Silver and Black need him to build on in this playoff fight down the stretch. Vic Beasley continues getting hyped up too. Let’s see what they do versus a hobbled or backup Colts tackle.
The secondary will need all the favors they can get. Hopefully, the d-line can convert sacks. We know Rivers will make mistakes but the secondary must capitalize on them by getting ints.
This Colts group doesn’t have nearly the same imposing size and speed on the outside as the Jets. They do have more speed and explosiveness out of the backfield which means the Raiders LBs are on notice. Playoff football means stopping the run and the Colts offer a good foe there.
Offensively, the Silver and Black have their hands filled with a Colts defense that gave up the 8th fewest passing yards and 5th fewest rushing yards. Indy is also top-12 in sacks and top-10 for interceptions.
A lot of that is attributed to Colts linebacker Darius Leonard. He’s one of the best defensive players in the whole league. He does a lot for them all over the field.
The Raiders are also familiar with the Colts front four. Denico Autry continues producing on a modest contract after leaving the Raiders for the Colts in free agency. DeForest Buckner continues is producing in his first year in Indy. Buckner is nursing a hip injury but should play. The point is, the Raiders interior line will have their hands full with this rotation. Long-time Chief Justin Houston has 7.5 sacks with the Colts this year. He is another former division rival with experience giving the Raiders hell.
Nonetheless, the Raiders will need to keep being who they are. These days, a good offense beats a good defense. Vegas needs to run the ball to neutralize the upfield aggressiveness of the Colts. Getting Jacobs back can only help that cause. They can also sprinkle in some screens.
Then, it’s up to Carr to find his receivers deep. The Raiders receivers have a speed advantage on the outside. This is the week the Raiders got to execute those big plays. The Silver and Black need to be themselves. Run the ball and take shots deep. That is Raiders football.
Expect this game to be physical. Both teams are indoor teams and fighting for a playoff spot. Each team has two division games and another potential playoff team remaining on their schedule. Point is, neither team wants to lose. The Colts have one less loss and are still in play for the division crown so they have a little more room for a loss.
A win for either team pads the playoff resume while a loss just makes it that much harder. Don’t forget it is a short week for the Raiders as they play the Chargers Thursday. That means Execution needs to be all that more crisp with less preparation and recovery after this matchup vs the Colts.
If Vegas comes with the same intensity and urgency they kept versus the Chiefs, they can get a statement win. However, they come out like they did the past two weeks versus teams with nothing to play for and their season could be over. Hopefully, being at home helps them overcome any slow start. No east coast travel fatigue to blame either.
The Raiders goal of making the playoffs is within their reach. They just gotta do their part by winning the next four games.
Vegas needs to execute by finding ways to create turnovers and force Rivers into mistakes. They got to stop the run and also control the clock with their own o-line and running back play. Don’t forget a big play in the pass here and there. If the Silver and Black do that in this four game stretch they can make the playoffs. However, that starts with this huge test versus the Colts. Nothing else matters without handling business versus Indy first.