Week 17 Preview: Raiders and Colts battle for playoff spots

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Week 17 is already here, and with two more regular season games left, the Las Vegas Raiders control their own destiny and face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. After a week filled with COVID-19 and walkthroughs, let’s take a look at some things to watch heading into Sunday and beyond.

Playoff Implications

The Raiders matchup this week is key in keeping their playoff hopes alive. The Raiders already hold the tiebreaker against the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Denver Broncos. all teams that are in the hunt for a wild card spot.

If the Silver and Black can pull off wins in both of their final two games, they will make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. One loss and one tie would keep their hopes alive. If they lose both games, they will not make the playoffs in 2021.

“They had a good practice today. I think it’s been a really good week of preparation,” interim head coach Rich Bisaccia said about the Week 17 matchup with the Colts. “They know that the number one job of a pro player is to protect his job and the best way to do that is within your performance… I know they’re excited about playing.”

The Colts are also looking for a playoff berth as they close out their schedule. They’ve come alive in the second half of the season and it would be a shock league-wide for this team to not see the postseason. If the season ended today, the Colts would hold the 5th seed in the AFC. If the Raiders win on Sunday, they will share the same record as the Colts and hold the tiebreaker over yet another team.

Who is playing?

The Raiders have been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak within the organization this week. The Raiders placed six defensive players on the COVID-19 reserve list on Monday, and another four players on the list throughout the week.

The NFL updated its protocols this week, allowing for players to come off the COVID list after five days. This worked tremendously in the Raiders’ favor as nearly half of their COVID-positive players are now eligible to return on Saturday.

Interim Head Coach Rich Bisaccia said on Friday that he expects LB Denzel Perryman, CB Casey Hayward Jr., LB Cory Littleton, and DT Darius Philon to return on Saturday. After testing positive on Wednesday, TE Darren Waller is not likely to play on Sunday.

COVID-19 isn’t the only thing running its course for the Raiders, however. Injuries have also played their part. After suffering a rib injury during the Raiders’ Week 16 victory, QB Derek Carr is on track to play.

“(Carr) looked good today. He looked good all week,” Bisaccia told the media on Friday.

DT Johnathan Hankins is the only Raider with an injury designation for Sunday. He is questionable to suit up.

On Saturday, the Colts activated QB Carson Wentz, RT Braden Smith, and CB T.J. Carrie all from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

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