3 Key Matchups to Watch as the Raiders Face the Colts

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The Las Vegas Raiders are in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. However, standing in their way are two teams that are also looking to do the same thing. Here are three matchups that will be among the most pivotal on the field as the Raiders face the Colts on Sunday.

Jonathan Taylor vs. Raiders Front 7

The league’s best running back could be Colts RB Jonathan Taylor. He currently leads the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns with 1,626 yards and 17 touchdowns. When Taylor rushes for 100+ yards, the Colts are 9-0, and when he doesn’t, they’re 0-6. Holding Taylor to less than 100 yards is crucial.

The Raiders front seven has a huge task at hand and unfortunately for the Raiders, they may be short-handed.

The Raiders have many players on the front seven alone on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but interim head coach Rich Bisaccia was optimistic Friday about their availability for Sunday’s game.

“Good to get K.J. (Wright) back today… We fully anticipate tomorrow up in (Indianapolis) to get Denzel Perryman back, Casey Hayward, Cory Littleton, and (Darius) Philon. We anticipate getting them up in (Indianapolis) tomorrow.”

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will need to rely on LB Divine Deablo as he is the only available linebacker that has played any meaningful snaps for the Raiders. If the Raiders plan on slowing down Taylor, Deablo will have to have a big game.

Part of slowing down Taylor will include stacking the box. Although it hasn’t always worked, it will be the way to contain the league’s number one rusher. If the Colts have six blockers, the Raiders will need seven in the box. If they have eight blockers, they’ll need nine in the box. That could lead to some mismatches on the backend, but that is the only way to slow down the young explosive back.

Raiders Rushing Attack vs. Colts Run Defense

The Indianapolis Colts currently have the 14th-ranked defense against the run in total yards and the 26th-ranked defense in yards per attempt. RB Josh Jacobs is coming off of his best game of the year, posting 129 rushing yards on 27 carries. The opportunity for the Raiders to have success on the ground is there, but the Jacobs-led rushing attack will rely on his offensive line and their ability to open up running lanes.

Last week, going into halftime, the Raiders were struggling to get anything going on the ground. But after the half, the Raiders came out angry and ran the ball all over the Broncos. The Raiders will look to do the same thing against the Colts.

For the Colts, they get back one of the league’s best linebackers, Darius Leonard, after the league adopted new standards regarding the 10-day quarantine rule. Leonard was initially not eligible to play against the Raiders, but the new rules allow him to come back after quarantining for five days. He will be a player the Raiders offensive line needs to keep an eye on as he can shut down the run if not accounted for.

Derek Carr vs. Colts Secondary

QB Derek Carr is about to go into a game that may be the biggest game of his eight-year career. The Raiders are 8-7 and wins in the next two games all but guarantee a playoff spot. The Colts are also in a similar spot. If they lose the next two, they’re out. If they lose any of the next two, they will not finish in first place in their division.

The secondary is arguably the best unit on this Colts defense. The defense is very opportunistic. They have taken the ball away from opposing quarterbacks 17 times, which ranks fourth best in the league. Colts CBs Kenny Moore II and Xavier Rhodes will look to smother WR Hunter Renfrow, who has become one of the league’s most impressive breakout players this season.

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