The Colts won a difficult division game last week, which puts them in a perfect position for the playoffs moving forward, starting with the Raiders this weekend. The Raiders, currently at 7-5, need this win just as much, if not more, than the Colts do. They will do everything they can to get it.
The Colts should be fine this game as long as they follow one rule: If the game comes down to a Hail Mary, don’t send the house.
Okay, now that we got the Jets jokes out of the way, let’s get into what it will actually take for the Colts to win this game.
1) Continue Offensive Gameplan
Jonathan Taylor had an excellent Week 13 as he managed 135 total yards, a touchdown, and 7.0 yards per carry vs. the Texans. This week, we should see more of that as the Raiders rank in the bottom-half of the league in both rushing and passing yards allowed per game.
Phillip Rivers has been playing excellent football as of late, and a large part of that is due to the emergence of Michael Pittman, Jr. and the re-emergence of T.Y. Hilton. Both players have come on strong over the past four weeks.
I’m gonna make a bold prediction and say that, for the first time all season, both the rookie and the vet get into the endzone.
The Raiders are a tough team, but they don’t have the players to match up with the speed of T.Y. Hilton, and the physicality of Michael Pittman. We’ll come back to this on Sunday, but I think we see a stat line of around six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown for T.Y. and five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown for Pittman.
The Raiders struggle defensively; the Colts need to take advantage of that.
2) Make Derek Carr Beat You
Derek Carr is a good quarterback when he has talent around him; this year, he does.
Josh Jacobs is one of the league’s best young running backs. Henry Ruggs III has the speed to beat any corner, at any point in the game. Nelson Agholor is having a career season. Hunter Renfrow is as reliable a third-down option as there is in the NFL, and Darren Waller is a top-three tight end in the league.
Carr is currently in the middle of arguably his best season ever. He’s on pace for over 4,000 yards passing, nearly 30 passing touchdowns, and a career-high QBR and Passer Rating. With all of that said, I still have a hard time believing that Derek Carr can win big games consistently.
Yes, I know what people will say Carr threw for 385 yards last week, had four total touchdowns, and threw a game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds. To those people, my response would be… really?
There is no way the Raiders should have even been close to losing a football game to the 2020 New York Jets. They are very, very, really just not good.
(I know I said I would stop making fun of them before; I lied.)
Just look back to the Colts game vs. the Jets in Week 3. The Colts won 36-7, and at that point, the Jets still wanted to win their games.
Attack Derek Carr and make him beat you, but I’m willing to bet he can’t.
3) Force Turnovers
The Colts defense is excellent. We all know this. They are in the top-third in the league in turnovers forced at 19. As a team, they have a +7 turnover differential. Good teams win the turnover battle.
The Raiders are currently at -2 on the season…
The Colts are +11 in their 8 wins this season. If they want to get win No. 9 come Sunday, they need to win the turnover battle again.
Football really is simple: the more often you don’t shoot yourself in the foot, the more often you’re going to be a good team. The Colts have shown that all season; the Raiders, not so much. It’s time to do that one more time in Week 14.
This game is crucial for the Colts in both the division race and the Wild Card race. If the Colts win this game, there is a very good chance they improve to 11-5 at worst. 11-5 will guarantee a playoff spot; 10-6 might not.
It is crazy to say that, in a year that the NFL expanded the playoffs to 7 teams, that a 10-6 record might not clinch a playoff spot. Yet, that is where we are as Week 14 begins. If the Colts win this game, they control their destiny; if they lose, they may need some help. Win this game and take the doubt out of the playoff race.
I think the Colts take care of business. We see big days from Jonathan Taylor, Phillip Rivers, and the receiving corps, headlined by T.Y. Hilton.
Playoff pressure starts now, and the Colts need to prove they’re ready for it.
(Featured Image Credit: Colts.com)