INDIANAPOLIS – The longest continental road trip of the season for the Colts has Chuck Pagano's team heading to Bay Area for a Saturday afternoon matchup with the Raiders.
Playoff hopes are hanging by a thread for the Colts as they try to run their road-winning streak to five games on Saturday.
What are the key ingredients to victory, presented by Papa Johns, when the Colts (7-7) take on the Raiders (11-3) in Week 16?
1. Defend The Balance
-Derek Carr might just be the MVP-favorite, but don't pigeonhole Oakland's offense just on his right arm. The Raiders are the sixth best rushing offense, along with having the sixth ranked passing offense. Wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree form arguably the NFL's top receiving duo. 2. Quiet The Edge
-The offensive line in front of Andrew Luck was great in Week 15. The test this weekend comes more so off the edge with some speed pass rushers. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin have been especially outstanding when Oakland has late fourth-quarter leads. It remains to be seen if the Colts will have another week of an inexperienced lines with Denzelle Good and Joe Reitz still dealing with injuries.
3. Start And Finish
-The Raiders start and finish better than just about anyone in the NFL. They've outscored their opponents by 63 combined points in the first and fourth quarters. Derek Carr's seven fourth-quarter comebacks is one short of an NFL record.
4. New Defensive Challenge
-Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison are going to see a totally different opposition this week. Houston and Minnesota don't have anywhere near the offensive firepower that Oakland brings. This will easily be the toughest defensive test the Colts have had in December.
5. Prepare For A Shootout
-This one has the makings of a potential shootout. Oakland's defense has given up plenty of yards in 2016, so the Colts should be able to move it. The Colts haven't found themselves in a real shootout too many times this year. If it happens on Saturday, the Colts must be efficient inside the red zone.
6. Gore's Push For 1,000
-Frank Gore is 109 yards short of 1,000 on the season. Gore's 101-yard outing last week put him back above the pace needed for a 1,000-yard year. Some of Gore's best games this season have come away from home and it was that balance last week, that allowed the Colts to protect the ball extremely well last Sunday. Minnesota was the NFL's No. 2 ranked team in turnover margin. Oakland is No. 1.
7. Scoreboard Watching
-It's very possible the Colts will know their playoff fate before the kick off on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. With the Titans playing at 1:00 (Houston doesn't play until 8:30), the Colts could officially be eliminated from the AFC South and Wild Card consideration before their first whistle against the Raiders. Again, for the Colts to win the division, three things have to happen: the Colts have to win out, have Houston lose out and have the Titans lose on Sunday to the Jaguars.