For the Raiders, Sunday’s game in Indianapolis is one of the most important of the entire season.
Win, and the 2-2 Raiders are off to merry ol’ London against the Bears and one Khalil Mack.
But lose, and the 1-3 Raiders are looking at a 1-6 nightmare. Bears. Packers. Texans. All on the road, and licking their chops about facing a team going south.
Beating the Colts will not be easy. They are favored by 6½ with the over-under set at 45. I don’t recommend betting on the Raiders unless the line ticks up to seven, which it has at some books with added juice to take the points.
The Colts are dealing with significant injuries. Already out with concussion symptoms is their outstanding young linebacker Darius Leonard, who led the league in tackles as the 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Keep an eye on the condition of wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. He missed practice earlier this week with a quad injury. With 20 catches for 195 yards and four touchdowns in the first three games, he is the key to Jacoby Brissett attacking down field. The Colts do not have another receiving weapon like Hilton. A year ago it was Andrew Luck beating the Raiders in Oakland, but he used a combinations of his tight ends. Brissett needs Hilton to stretch the field.
The Colts are very strong with a running department that is ranked sixth in the NFL. Marlon Mack has run for 299 yards this year. With Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines adding 105 yards between them, they can rotate backs against a Raider defense that ranks 19th against the run and had trouble containing Dalvin Cook last week at Minnesota.
Off my chest: It’s time for quarterback Derek Carr to step it up and make plays for the Raiders. If he is to be Jon Gruden’s quarterback in Las Vegas next season when the team moves here, he needs to put touchdowns on the scoreboard. Yards don’t cut it, and he is not getting many of those. According to PlayerProfiler.com, Carr’s average pass is traveling 6.6 yards in the air, ranking him only 24th in the league. He has got to get the ball down field, make big plays and be more patient in the pocket. Sometimes he gets happy feet and makes decisions way too early.
It will be great fun getting back to Indy and visiting the old Brickyard for a side trip with some of the players. There are many great memories there from when we covered the 500.
With that in mind, maybe we should find Tony George to rework that famous command.
Raiders, start your offense.