It’s been a while since the Oakland Raiders actually played in Oakland, right?
With trips to Southern California and then London, followed by the bye week, the Silver and Black haven’t actually played a true home game since September 30th – coincidentally their only win of 2018.
Head Coach Jon Gruden and Co., are returning home at a good time as well; sitting at 1-5, the team is desperate to notch another “W,” but they’ll have their collective hands full with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
Kickoff is at 1:05 pm PST; here are six things to watch.
1. Next men up
Transactions make the world go ‘round, so let’s give a quick recap of what’s happened the past few days at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway.
Amari Cooper is now a Dallas Cowboy, Marshawn Lynch is on the reserve/injured list, Daniel Carlson is the team’s kicker – more on him later – and Marcell Ateman and Denver Kirkland are on the 53-man roster.
The two big takeaways from that list are ironically the guys who aren’t going to suit up on Sunday, Cooper and Lynch, and because of that, I’ll be keeping an eye on the players who step up in their stead.
Obviously, Doug Martin is the first man that comes to mind, as he’ll be the Raiders featured back against the Colts, but I’m also excited to see if we see an uptick in reps for Jalen Richard as well.
As far as the wide receivers go, I still expect to see a heavy dose of Jordy Nelson, but I’m really looking forward to seeing if Martavis Bryant gets in the mix a little bit more without No. 89 on the field for the Raiders.
Perhaps we’ll see a little Brandon LaFell action as well?
2. Take care of business on third down
Getting off the field is always at a premium, but taking care of business on third down will be even more important against a Colts teams that’s the best in the league on third down.
Through seven games, the Colts have converted a staggering 50 percent of their third down chances, so making life difficult for Andrew Luck and Co., on third down is going to be paramount for success Sunday afternoon at the OACC.
We’ve seen in 2018 that third down conversions can be a gut punch for a Raiders defense, so the group would be well served to buckle down against the Colts.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said he’s been pleased with what his group has been able to do – excluding a few plays each week – but it’ll be tough sledding for the group Sunday.
Let’s see what they can do.
3. Welcome to The Town, Daniel Carlson
Who doesn’t love a redemption story?
Whether it’s Rocky, Luke Skywalker, or in this case, Daniel Carlson, everyone loves a strong second act.
Well, after a short stint with the Minnesota Vikings, that truth be told didn’t really end like he wanted it to, the rookie kicker will get a second chance to right the ship here in Oakland.
Carlson certainly has the pedigree to get things sorted out; he was a three-time All-American while at Auburn and is actually the SEC recorder holder for points scored, field goals made, as well as consecutive PATs made as well.
It’s crazy to think that the Silver and Black are technically on their fifth kicker of 2018, hopefully Carlson can provide the position some much-needed stability starting Sunday.
4. All eyes on the offensive line
Look, we can be honest here; the last time the Raiders took the field, the play of the offensive line was, shall we say… rough.
By game’s end, the Silver and Black had allowed six sacks, and Derek Carr had been hit a staggering 10 times.
Now, there’s certainly myriad reasons for that type of performance, but the reality is, you can’t have your starting quarterback under that type of fire for 60 minutes.
That said, Tom Cable’s group has a chance to return to form at the OACC Sunday afternoon, and against a Colts defense that ranks fourth in the NFL with 21 sacks, it’ll no doubt be a formidable test for the Raiders line.
When Carr has time to operate, he’s pretty effective; let’s see if gets a chance to play maestro.
5. Flex on ‘em, D.C.
Speaking of the Raiders starting quarterback, Sunday is going to be a big one for Derek Carr.
Since the win over the Cleveland Browns, No. 4 hasn’t had huge statistical outputs – and while some of the reasons for that are out of his control – the fact remains, that this Raiders offense still starts and ends with Carr.
The Colts rank just 21st in total defense, so DC will likely have his chances to make plays Sunday afternoon, and I for one, am really excited to see what he does with those chances.
Are we due for another, classic Derek Carr performance? I sure hope so.
6. Is there any bye week fatigue?
It’s been two weeks since the Silver and Black played a meaningful game, and because of that, it’s logical to think it might take a little while for the team to get their footing Sunday afternoon.
Add in the fact that the Colts are coming off likely their most-complete performance of the season last weekend, and it’s going to be important for the Silver and Black to start fast.
Some good news though? In his career, Coach Gruden is 5-1 in home games coming out of the bye.
I don’t know about you, but I like those numbers.