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Five Questions Heading Into The Oakland Raiders Week 16 Matchup With The Indianapolis Colts


Wide Receiver Amari Cooper

Yes, the Oakland Raiders are officially back in the playoffs, and yes, that's certainly cause for celebration, but with two games left on the schedule there's still a lot left on the table for the Silver and Black.

Derek Carr and the Raiders are within striking distance of taking the AFC West, but they'll need a win Saturday afternoon over the Indianapolis Colts to inch even closer to that goal.

Kickoff at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PT, but before we get Week 16 underway, let's take a look at five questions we have heading into the game.

1. Will Mario Edwards Jr. get back on the gridiron?

I might have jumped the gun a little bit last week when I posed this same question, but it's definitely a question worth asking again.

The second-year defensive end has been back on the practice field for the better part of three weeks, but when asked about No. 97's status Thursday afternoon, Head Coach Jack Del Rio didn't give any indication about Edwards' status.

"We had a good week of practice," said Head Coach Del Rio. "Obviously, you have to make a move to get him active before we can activate him and play him. I think he's had a good week."

Even if the Raiders were to activate Edwards in advance of Saturday's game, that wouldn't ensure that the former Florida State Seminole would actually see any time on the field.

While things certainly appear to be trending in the direction of Edwards making his 2016 debut against the Colts, we won't know for sure until closer kickoff.

2. Can Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack keep feasting?

At this point in the season, you'd be hard pressed to find a defensive duo playing better football than the Slash Brothers.

With 11 sacks, Mack has been a dominant force along the defensive line all year, and last weekend in San Diego, his partner in mayhem Bruce Irvin arrived to the party in a big way, finishing the Week 15 win with a pair of sacks en route to being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Combined, Mack and Irvin have 18 sacks, and either one or the other has taken down the quarterback every week since Week 5.

The pair of edge rushers are heating up at the right time, and they'll no doubt have their chances to make life difficult for Andrew Luck as he operates behind a porous offensive line that has allowed 40 sacks thus far in 2016.

I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot from Mack and Irvin Saturday, and I'll be looking forward to see how they impart their will as the Week 16 game wears on.

3. Can Latavius Murray and the boys keep rolling?

Much has been made over the past month about the Raiders decision to primarily operate from the shotgun or pistol, and say what you will about the decision, there's no doubt that the running game in particular has been producing a high level over that span.

Over the past three games, the Raiders are averaging just under 140 yards per game, and the running backs have been a consistent force for the Silver and Black's offense.

While seeing a team operate from the shotgun or pistol as much as the Raiders have been is more the exception than the rule in the 2016 NFL, you won't be hearing any complaints from the team's trio of running backs about the formation.

"There's a benefit to being in the pistol," Jalen Richard said. "Obviously, the ball carrier gets the ball in his hands faster I would think, but being in pistol, it just opens up some different things."

Coming into Saturday's matchup, the Colts are allowing 109.6 rushing yards per game, so keep an eye on the Raiders offensive front, and see if they can once again spring Murray and Co. into another dominant outing on the ground.

4. Will the Raiders be able to limit Andrew Luck?

It's no secret that nearly everything the Colts want to do offensively begins and ends with their Pro Bowl quarterback.

Granted, Luck hasn't had the luxury of having a ton of time to operate in the pocket this season, but even still, the former Stanford Cardinal is in the midst of an impressive campaign where his 27 passing touchdowns are good for fifth in the NFL.

Luck is an elite talent, there's really no arguing that, and the Raiders improved defense will have their hands full Saturday afternoon at the OACC in trying to contain No. 12.

Ken Norton, Jr.'s group has done a good job of limiting the opposing quarterback throughout their run of improved play, so I'm looking forward to how respond to the task of squaring off against Luck.

5. Will Amari Cooper get more involved offensively?

The Raiders flew back from San Diego Sunday evening with the a win, that's the most important thing, but if you take a quick glance at the final stats, it becomes quite obvious that Amari Cooper didn't get involved too much in the 19-16 win over the Chargers.

In total, 'Coop' tallied just one reception for 28 yards, and while the second-year wide receiver has been seeing some extra attention from opposing defenses in the form of double teams and spies, going forward, Head Coach Del Rio would like to see No. 89 get involved a little bit more.

"It'd be nice to get him [Cooper] a few more balls, but I think at the end of day, we want to stack up wins," Del Rio said. "I think that's most important, but I think getting your premier players involved is usually a good thing."

Although he wasn't able to get rolling against the Chargers, Cooper has still put together another Pro Bowl campaign for the Silver and Black, and he looks to be on pace to secure even more receiving yards than he did as a rookie.

One quiet game won't define Cooper's season, but I'm sure he'd like to get back to business as usual Saturday against the Colts.

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