The Las Vegas Raiders went into the 2022 NFL season hoping to compete for the AFC West with a loaded offense. Heading into a Week 10 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas is now just looking to preserve whatever dignity it has remaining.
It’s a dire situation right now. Las Vegas has lost three of its last four games, with consecutive losses against teams with a 3-6 record heading into Sunday. Sitting near the bottom of the NFL standings and in the cellar of the AFC West, it’s hard to imagine things could get worse.
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Yet, that’s the very fear among fans before Week 10. A loss on Sunday wouldn’t just drop this team to 2-7, it would come against a team being led by an interim coach whose only experience came at the high school level.
Here are five keys to a Las Vegas Raiders’ victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Las Vegas Raiders’ injuries, Colts’ coaching inexperience
The road to victory will be less certain this week compared to previous weeks. Not only does it come with the action on the field, but also the personnel on both sides.
Las Vegas is without two of its top pass catchers in tight end Darren Waller (hamstring) and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (oblique), who both landed on Injured Reserve on Thursday.
Since training camp, Waller has dealt with a hamstring injury that never seemed to fully heal. On the other hand, Renfrow has gone through multiple injuries to the ribs, hips, hamstring, all while also making a stint on the concussion protocol.
The Colts have replaced head coach Frank Reich, who was fired earlier this week for ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday, a two-time All-Pro center and a Super Bowl Champion with the Colts.
The challenge for the Raiders in preparing for Indianapolis is the lack of Saturday’s inexperience above the college game. Las Vegas will have to figure out the Colts’ inconsistencies in Saturday’s first game as an NFL head coach.
Executing for all four quarters
The main takeaway from last week’s 27-20 loss was the Raiders’ execution. Multiple players said the team lacked performance as the game went along by blowing the third 17-plus point lead of the season.
“Just find a way to be consistent enough to do it over the course for a whole game, all four quarters. Whatever that is, it’s really the execution from the players. At the end of the day, it’s about making adjustments and everybody doing their job.”Davante Adams on addressing Las Vegas’ Raiders inconsistency
The ability for the Raiders is although they might have good hard practices, they have to be able to translate that late in ballgames, especially if they have a lead.
Even without players like Waller, Renfrow, recently retired linebacker Blake Martinez or safety Johnathan Abram, who was waived earlier in the week, this team still has to have the will and energy to win a football game on Sunday in front of Raider Nation.
This is the Raiders’ only home game in a six-week span as the Raiders will go back on the road by staying in the western United States, going to Seattle and Denver before playing four of the final six games at home.
Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs need to step up
As a result of not having Waller or Renfrow for the next month, quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders will have to rely on Adams and running back Josh Jacobs, who have both had productive weeks throughout the season.
Adams is tied for the most touchdowns in 2022 with seven alongside Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce.
Jacobs has recorded 43 rushing first downs, which ranks atop the NFL.
It will be a difficult task for both of them as Adams will most likely go up against Colts’ cornerback Stephon Gilmore. In addition, Jacobs is going up against an Indianapolis defense that only allows 3.8 yards per carry, including defensive end Yannick Ngaouke and Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who were both with Las Vegas last season.
As a result, other players will have to step up behind Adams and Jacobs, including tight end Foster Moreau, wide receivers Mack Hollins and Keelan Cole, as well as running backs Brandon Bolden, Ameer Abdullah and Zamir White.
Las Vegas must pressure Sam Ehlinger
On defense, one of the struggles have been getting to the quarterback as the Raiders are last in the NFL with nine sacks and a 70.5% completion rate against opposing play callers.
As teams have been able to key in on defensive ends Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones, it has opened the door for other players along the defensive line, including rookie defensive tackles Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler, who have filled in for Andrew Billings and Bilal Nichols.
“The one thing that stands out to me about both of those young players is that the game is slowing down for them. With both of those two players, it has started to slow down where it’s not we’re starting to see flashes of the burst and the power that we really liked in college.”Las Vegas Raiders HC Josh McDaniels on Neil Farrell Jr, Matthew Butler
The next step in their development is producing at a high level alongside their teammates on the defensive line. If the Raiders can get to Indianapolis quarterback Sam Ehlinger and limit him, it will make things a lot easier for the secondary.
Raiders must bottle up Jonathan Taylor
Once again, another one-on-one running back matchup ensues as Jacobs now goes up against Jonathan Taylor, who has been sidelined over the past few weeks due to an ankle injury.
Taylor has fully practiced Thursday and Friday and is prepared to make his return. However, in the event Taylor is capped with his snaps, the Raiders need to watch for his backup Deon Jackson.
As a result, the Las Vegas Raiders have to try and stop the run, even if it comes down to the second and third levels amongst the linebackers and those in the secondary.
Las Vegas’ depth at the linebacker continues to be challenged as Divine Deablo was put on injured reserve, Denzel Perryman continues to battle injuries and Martinez retirement. Behind Perryman, the Raiders will have Jayon Brown and Luke Masterson to try and defend the Colts’ tight ends, in addition to Taylor.