Each week, Colts.com will speak with a writer who covers the team the Colts are set to play that upcoming week.
In Week 17, the Colts are facing the Las Vegas Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium. To gain more insight, we caught up with Levi Edwards, the digital team reporter for Raiders.com.
Colts.com: With the Raiders' Christmas win over the Kansas City Chiefs, not only does it keep the team's playoff hopes alive, but it also gives interim head coach Antonio Pierce arguably the biggest win of his tenure. What have been the biggest differences in the team since Pierce stepped in for Josh McDaniels in early November?
Levi Edwards: I wouldn't necessary call this a difference, but the energy in the locker room has been amplified. Pierce has preached playing with energy and passion and the players have been receptive to his message, especially considering he's a former Pro Bowl linebacker who has won a lot of games as a player himself.
Colts.com: Another change the Raiders made was benching Jimmy Garoppolo in favor of rookie Aidan O'Connell. How would you evaluate the rookie through his first eight career starts?
Levi Edwards: He's been a work in progress, but the keyword is progress which we've seen through his eight starts. His accuracy has been on display since the preseason, but his biggest area of improvement has been limiting turnovers and pocket awareness. His best moment yet came in Week 15 against the Chargers, throwing four touchdowns en route to the Raiders' franchise record 63-point win.
Colts.com: One of the benefits of O'Connell's job is that he has playmakers like Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams to get the ball to. Though both players have seen a dip in production since last season, they're still two players that defenses have to be aware of at all times. How big is their presence for the offense?
Levi Edwards: Their presence remains as big as ever. While the Raiders offense is predicated around the two All-Pros, opposing defenses keying in on them has opened up opportunities for Jakobi Meyers, who leads the team in touchdown receptions, and Ameer Abdullah on third-down situations. Whether the ball is in their hands or not, the threat of Jacobs and Adams is still enough to keep defensive coordinators on their heels.
Colts.com: Defensive end Maxx Crosby is having his best season since coming into the NFL. With a career-high 13.5 sacks under his belt already, what is it about this season that has Crosby playing so well?
Levi Edwards: Crosby has been playing at a high level for 2-3 seasons now, but it's made its way to the national spotlight recently. He's remained consistent in his offseason training and brings a relentless energy to practice, which has carried over for all to see on Sundays. His leadership in the locker room is just as beneficial to the team as any of the sacks he produces on the field.
Colts.com: Though the Raiders' defense has recently been playing at a high level, allowing an average of just 12.7 points through the last three games, the Colts' offense has proven they can score consistently with an average of 23.6 points per game this season. What does the Raiders' defense need to do to keep the Colts' offense from getting into a rhythm?
Levi Edwards: Their primary focus must be stopping the Colts rushing attack. Jonathan Taylor has averaged 135 rushing yards in three career games played against the Raiders. While the Silver and Black's passing defense has been phenomenal recently, they'll need to commit to stop the running early to make the Colts offense one-dimensional. Easier said than done though.