The Las Vegas Raiders are on the road for the final time this season as they take on the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday at 10 a.m. PST. The game will be televised on FOX.
Last year, these two teams faced off at Allegiant Stadium and the Colts outlasted the Raiders 44-27.
This is the fourth consecutive season the Raiders and Colts are squaring off as both teams are trying to get into the playoffs with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Here are four keys to a Raiders win:
1. D, D, D defense
Over the last few weeks, one of the strengths for the Silver and Black has been their defense.
Against Cleveland and Denver, the two teams combined to score 27 points, which resulted in two Las Vegas victories to stay in the playoff picture.
In addition, the Raiders’ defense has allowed 394 total yards, including a mere 158 yards against the Broncos last Sunday.
Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia said the defense, led by defensive ends Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue, has been able to get better game after game while trying to stay injury-free as the end of the season approaches.
“A lot of our identity is up front, on our defensive front,” Bisaccia said. “What they’ve been able to do all year, and we seem to improve week in and week out and we’ve been fortunate, for the most part, to hang on to those guys. We lost (defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins) last week with an aggravated back. We fully anticipate having him back.
“(Defensive tackle Damion Square) has stepped in and played well. (Defensive tackle Darius Philon) has stepped in and played well inside. Solomon Thomas has been extremely consistent all year. Those big bodies on the inside and we’ve done a good job on the edge. We all know about Maxx’s motor and how’s he played along with Yannick and Carl (Nassib) has had a heck of a year and (Clelin Ferrell) keeps improving.”
2. Las Vegas Raiders must contain Jonathan Taylor
One Colts’ offensive player the Raiders have to watch for is running back Johnathan Taylor.
This season, 226-pound rusher has 1,626 yards on the ground, which ranks No. 1 among all running backs. In addition to rushing yards, Taylor leads running backs in rushing touchdowns, carries, rushing first downs and longest carries by yard.
Taylor has rushed for over 100 yards in six of the last seven games while averaging 25 carries and 5.5 yards per rush during that span.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said Taylor is a unique player who is seeing success in his second NFL season.
“He’s a bigger-bodied back that is extremely fast, so he’s got a really rare combination,” Bradley said. “He’s got very good patience. Their front line – their offensive line – is very good. They do a good job of holding on to blocks, so gap integrity very important for us this week.”
The team’s run defense has been beneficial, especially last week, limiting Denver’s backfield duo to 14 carries for eight yards.
Cornerback Desmond Trufant, who recorded a team-high seven tackles last week, said the defense needs to continue to keep their intensity up as Las Vegas faces its third consecutive run-dominant opponent.
“Every week, we’ve been facing some good backs,” Trufant said. “At the end of the day, it’s a new game, it’s a new day and you’ve got to bring it. You’ve got to bring that same energy. What you did last week doesn’t just transfer over into next week, you got to go earn it again.”
3. Tight ends to play a factor for Las Vegas Raiders, Indianapolis Colts
One of the keys on Sunday will be the Raiders using their tight ends as the Colts have allowed opposing tight ends to record at least five receptions in 14 of 16 games this season, including nine receptions last week against Arizona.
Furthermore, New England tight end Hunter Henry had six receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns against Indianapolis two weeks ago.
Las Vegas tight end Darren Waller is still recovering from a hip injury, but his return this week became more complicated when he tested positive for COVID-19.
If Waller can report two negative tests 24 hours apart, he is eligible to play. However, whether Waller is good to go, expect backup tight end Foster Moreau to handle the starting tight end duties once again.
Last week against Denver, Moreau recorded four receptions for a game-high 67 yards, including the final reception of the game to seal the 17-14 victory.
The Raiders faced third-and-2 with 2:10 left on their own 36-yard line and not wanting to give the ball back to the Broncos in a one possession game.
Despite Denver not having any timeouts remaining quarterback Derek Carr took the snap from the shotgun and ran right, lofting the ball into the air for a wide-open Moreau and a 28-yard gain to ice the victory.
4. Keep running the ball
One of the benefits to last week’s victory was how effective running back Josh Jacobs was last week.
Jacobs recorded 27 carries for 129 yards, the most yards he’s recorded this season.
His rushing, along with the offensive line’s work, was a big reason why the Raiders were able to control the game and have 36 minutes of offense.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Jacobs’ success was in large part to the offensive line’s success in controlling the trenches as both are meeting each day to gain confidence in one another.
“The running backs and the offensive line work together and they can’t survive without one another,” Olson said. “That trust between the two of them is huge. They meet together, leading in to the gameplan, everyday post practice, the running backs are in the same meeting room with the offensive line. Those two work hand in hand and certainly trust is a huge part of that.”
Ultimately, what the success of the run game led to, was open holes in the passing games. Seven different receivers, including fullback Jalen Richard and running backs Josh Jacobs and Peyton Barber, caught at lest one pass.