Coming off their big victory over the Chargers last week, the Raiders will play host Saturday to the Indianapolis Colts.
The 11-3 Raiders – who already have clinched a playoff spot – will try to keep their momentum rolling toward an AFC West championship with a victory over the 7-7 Colts at O.co Coliseum.
But, the Colts will present some challenges. With former Stanford star Andrew Luck at quarterback, Indianapolis has a dangerous offense. The Colts rank No. 7 in the NFL in passing, averaging 258.9 yards per game through the air. Overall, the Colts produce 361.1 yards per game in a balanced offense that scores nearly 26 points per contest.
Luck is completing 63.7 percent of his passes for 3,631 yards and 27 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. He’s also a dangerous runner (312 yards). Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is a game-breaker who’s already produced 1,248 yards and six TDs on 81 catches. Former 49er Frank Gore is the team’s top back, closing in on a 1,000-yard season (891 yards).
The Raiders, however, may be up to the task. Since the beginning of the season, the Raiders’ defense has improved markedly. Over the past eight games, the Raiders defense has been the seventh best in the league. Oakland gave up just 16 points in the win vs. the Chargers, and the defense has been especially tough in the fourth quarter. In fact, the Raiders have yet to give up a point this season over the final three minutes of any game.
Offseason additions such as cornerback Sean Smith, linebacker Bruce Irvin and safety Reggie Nelson have settled in, and the defense has come together, with a deep rotation of veterans and rookies shuttling in and out of the lineup.
This week, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said his players “feel good about the direction they’re going,” and are happy with the progress they’ve made. He said their hard work is the reason they’ve been so effective at the end of games.
“I think that the conditioning, the whole staff has done a great job of having the guys ready to finish strong,” Norton told a writer for the team’s website. “There’s a rotation that they’re on to make sure that their legs are really good toward the end of the game. The guys are really working well together as far as different guys playing.”
Norton said, too, that execution and communication continue to sharpen.
“Guys (are) really putting their will together to really finish strong,” he said.
Oddsmakers have made the Raiders 3½-point favorites for Saturday’s game. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:25 p.m.