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Key Matchups To Watch: Oakland Raiders vs. Indianapolis Colts


The Oakland Raiders are back in the playoffs, but with two games left on the regular season schedule, there is still a ton on the table for the Silver and Black, mainly winning the AFC West for the first time since 2002.

Derek Carr and the Raiders control their own destiny and will need a win Saturday afternoon to remain in first place in the division.

It'll be tough sledding for the Silver and black though, as they'll welcome an Indianapolis Colts team that desperately need a win to keep their postseason hopes alive.

Before Saturday's kickoff at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, let's take an early look at three matchups that will play a role in the outcome of the Week 16 contest.

Linebacker Perry Riley, Jr. vs. Running Back Frank Gore

It doesn't seem to matter what year it is, what jersey he's wearing, or who's handing him the football; Frank Gore just keeps on trucking.

Now in his 12th NFL season – and his second in Indianapolis – Gore is once again the Colts leading rushing, and is also on pace to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the ninth time in his career.

The 33-year-old back has impressively seemed to send Father Time away each time he comes knocking, and Head Coach Jack Del Rio knows that his defense will have their work cut out for them in containing No. 23.

"Has a great nose for that yard, that hidden yard," said Head Coach Del Rio when talking about Gore. "He knows how to make people miss. He knows how to run behind his blocks. I think he's a really good player."

While bringing down Gore – a player notorious for not going down at first contact – is certainly going to be a team effort, middle linebacker Perry Riley, Jr., will be tasked with making sure that Gore's three-yard gains don't turn into much more.

Since arriving in Oakland in early-October, the veteran linebacker has been impressive, starting all nine games he has been a Raider for, totaling 49 tackles, and two passes defensed in the process.

Left Tackle Donald Penn vs. Outside Linebacker Erik Walden

Donald Penn was selected to his second Pro Bowl Tuesday evening, and Saturday afternoon he'll have his hands full as he squares off against Erik Walden.

At age 31 – and in his ninth season no less – Walden is having a career year, as he's already secured 10 sacks and a pair of passes defensed with two games left on the schedule.

Walden's 10 sacks are far and away the most he's had since being drafted in 2008, but taking down Derek Carr behind the line of scrimmage has been a rare occurrence for opposing defenses this year.

The Silver and Black's offensive line – that has three players headed to the Pro Bowl in Orlando by the way – has surrendered just 15 sacks this season, which is the fewest in the league.

Now in his 10th NFL season, Penn has enjoyed yet another strong campaign in Silver and Black, so keep an eye on how he stacks up against Walden Saturday afternoon at the OACC.

Punter Marquette vs. Punter Pat McAfee

Saturday's contest with the Colts not only features two of the best punters in the NFL, it also pits two of the bigger personalities in the league against one another.

Both King and McAfee are incredibly talented punters, you won't find many folks to dispute that, and in addition to their skill on the field, they're also two of the more shall, shall we say, outspoken, characters the league has.

We regularly bring up the fact that few teams are fortunate enough to have the luxury of a punter who can completely flip the field, but with McAfee on the roster, the Colts are one of those select teams.

It's not often that you look forward to two punters squaring off against one another, but make sure you keep a close eye both King and McAfee Saturday afternoon, I can't imagine that either will disappoint.

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