The Oakland Raiders wish the outcome of Sunday’s game could be more of a control your own destiny scenario. There is a chance they could win the game against a highly efficient Indianapolis Colts football team and still miss the playoffs as they watch the Kansas City Chiefs ride off into the sunset with the title of AFC West champions and playoff berth that they may feel they let slip right through their hands.
In order to win the game against the Colts, the Raiders will have to do a lot of things right like not turning the ball over, controlling the time of possession, and rattling Peyton Manning on many of his pass attempts. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for the Raiders over the Colts.
Odds are the Colts will do their fair share of scoring like they do in most games. While the Raiders certainly don’t want this to become a shootout game where they are under pressure to score on every drive, they have got to keep turning their possessions into some kind of points. As pundits say, a good drive always ends with some kind of kick, and hopefully the Raiders can make their drives end mostly with kickoffs.
Under Hue Jackson, the offense has not had trouble scoring in many games, averaging 360 yards per game and 25.2 points per game, currently the ninth best mark on the year. And you would expect an offense that is facing the 28th placed rushing defense should be able to gain some good ground yardage to help set up the pass and get them in scoring position. They have to, as Indy is the fourth best scoring offense at 27.7 points per game.
Stay Calm against Manning
The Raiders want their defense to rattle Peyton Manning and get him all shook up, not the contrary. Manning makes a lot of calls at the line of scrimmage based on what he reads in the defense. But this young squad must trust that their coaches are going to put them in the right position to make plays on Sunday, and perhaps come up with some ghost calls and funky formations of their own to confuse Manning and maybe make this four-time MVP see things that aren’t really there.
While that is easier said than done, the thing the Raiders defense has to do more than anything else is not screw up their play assignments. Guessing that Manning is going to the left when you are supposed to be covering to the right will be a very costly mistake against this guy. In addition, they have to be patient. Manning is going to get his yards against the defense, but they cannot give him yards by making bad decisions, like getting called for penalties such as unsportsmanlike conduct.
Don’t watch the scores
While it’s not imperative that they not pay mind to the scores of the earlier AFC West games on Sunday, it is imperative that they realize this is their season, not the season any other team. What matters most right now are not the playoffs or the scenarios, it’s the game at hand on Sunday and if they are disappointed by not making the playoffs going into the game, then they may have already beaten themselves.
I think Shane Lechler said it best this week when he said that if the Raiders were to make the playoffs, there would not be anybody saying, ‘Oh, we got a good game this week, we got the Raiders.’ Instead that team would prepare for them like they were a real contender, and the Raiders could be a scary team to face in the playoffs like the 9-7 2008 NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals. But if they don’t make the playoffs, it’s not the end of the world. What they need to do is take care of their business, in this game and against the Kansas City Chiefs next week. Because if they can end their season by going 6-0 in the division and winning four of the last five, it will go a long way towards building on their success for next season.
Just go out and play football
Perhaps the best thing the Raiders can do is go out and play football. They are not in control of their own destiny, but they can control their own actions. If they go out and play their game, they have a real opportunity to pull out a shocker and beat a Colts team that nearly nobody expects them to beat. They’ve been in this position before at San Diego three weeks ago.
In this game the Raiders have an opportunity to make a real statement to the league and that statement is, ‘We have arrived, We are for real, and We will not fade lightly into the sunset.’
While if they lose the game, or at least don’t play tough in the game, they make a statement that the same inconsistencies still exist and perhaps they haven’t grow as much as some, including themselves, would all like to think they have. They need this one as it would be their first out of division win in the AFC this year. Thus far they are 0-5 against the AFC, although they are 5-0 against the AFC West. Their divisional foes have a combined eight wins against AFC teams outside of the division.
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