Game Preview: Colts @ Raiders

The Indianapolis Colts season may have hit a huge turning point last weekend. Throttling the Buffalo Bills 37-5 must have felt great for a team who has struggled to finish out games this year. At 2-5, the Colts are still last in the AFC South, but they have a bit of optimism from last week’s convincing win. Putting up 37 points is good any week, but to do it against a top 10 defense is even better. The Indianapolis offense exploded on the ground for 220 rushing yards, and was also incredibly efficient through the air, as Andrew Luck threw for four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

This week, they’ll take their momentum out west, when they travel to Oakland to play the Raiders. Oakland has been under construction this year, as their front office has gutted many of their star players. Trades of linebacker Khalil Mack to the Bears, and wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Cowboys have changed the identity of the Raiders completely. Oakland also received disappointing injury news, as they were forced to put running back Marshawn Lynch on the injured reserve. The trades were not without their rewards though. The Raiders now own 3 first round draft picks for 2019, and two more for 2020. That’s some serious leverage for potential trades during the offseason, but also amazing to have if they actually decide to keep the picks. Either way, it will be interesting to see how their choices unfold come April during the 2019 draft.

Draft picks won’t help them win this year though. The Raiders are 1-5, and seem to be on a collision course for the league’s worst record. It almost seems as if they’re intentionally throwing the season to set themselves up for the draft. A risky decision, that could turn out to be the Colts benefit this weekend.

Even before the Amari Cooper trade, the Raiders look pretty rough on paper, starting with quarterback Derek Carr. Carr’s stats, have been underwhelming this season, as his ratio of 7 touchdowns to 8 interceptions leave much to be desired. The running game hasn’t helped out much either, as Oakland is only averaging 92.5 yards per game on the ground (25th in NFL). With Indy’s defense showing up big last week with 5 turnovers, the Raiders may have to take a more conservative approach to stay competitive in this game. The offense of the Raiders hasn’t been there all year. Putting up just 18.3 points per game (28th in NFL), I don’t see them keeping pace with an Indianapolis offense that is 10th in scoring with 27 points per game. Even worse, the Raiders defense led by defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, is giving up 29.3 points per game, which ranks 29th in the NFL.

All of the stats seem to trend towards an Indianapolis victory this week. Andrew Luck is second in passing touchdowns, Marlon Mack is coming off a great rushing performance of 120+ yards, Jack Doyle is returning this week giving the Colts their healthiest offensive lineup this year, and the Indianapolis defense is fired up after forcing 5 turnovers last weekend. The Colts have a lot of momentum, and I don’t see this Raiders team getting in the way of that. I look for Indianapolis to take a much needed two game winning streak into the bye, and keep hope alive for their battle in the AFC South.

My prediction:

Colts: 35 Raiders: 20

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