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Chuck Pagano on Raiders: “These guys have a heck of a roster”

Oakland Raiders v San Diego Chargers Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Of all 13 teams on the Indianapolis Colts schedule this year, none of them have a better record currently than the Oakland Raiders, their opponent this Saturday.

The Raiders are 11-3, leaders of the AFC West, and they’ve already clinched a playoff spot. If they clinch the division, they’ll also have a first round bye in the playoffs. They’ve had an incredibly impressive season, and this Saturday the Colts (7-7) will face the Raiders in Oakland for a Christmas Eve showdown. The Colts know what a challenge they face this weekend.

“It’s an excellent, excellent football team,” head coach Chuck Pagano said yesterday. “They’re big, athletic, fast. I was fortunate enough to spend a couple years in that organization when Mr. [Al] Davis was still alive. He’s as good as there is in this business. He knows how to build a football team. It’s the same thing, it was always about length and speed and size. It was a big man’s game and these guys have a heck of a roster. Line of scrimmage, offensive line, big, tough, well coached, Mike Tice does a great job. He’s done a great job for a long time. Got the quarterback, he’s playing extremely well. [Amari] Cooper, [Michael] Crabtree, good a combo as there is in the league right now. Tight ends, [Latavius] Murray, [Jalen] Richard, [DeAndre] Washington, got three runners, got a big one, kind of like a Darren McFadden type guy. Downhill guy, between the tackles, athletic enough and fast enough to bounce it outside, break a lot of tackles, things like that.

“Sixth ranked offense, sixth rushing, sixth passing,” Pagano continued. “They’re very, very balanced. Again, the quarterback [Derek Carr] is doing a great job, 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He’s made great decisions. He’s taking care of the football. Defensively, they’ve got a bunch of talent, take the ball away at a high rate, 26 takeaways to this point. Turnover margin, they’re number one in the National Football League, plus-15. Special teams, Brad Seely does a great job, been doing it for a long, long time. We know their record. It speaks for itself. It’s a confident team, very aggressive in all three phases and they’ve learned how to win. Their quarterback against San Diego, I think it was his seventh fourth quarter comeback win so again, they’re playing with a great deal of confidence. Jack [Del Rio] has done a great job in a short period of time changing the culture and bringing an identity to that football team. Once you look at the tape, it’s easy to see why they’re having the success that they are.”

The Raiders have one of the best offenses in the NFL, ranking third in points per game and sixth in yards per game (they’re sixth in both passing yards and rushing yards). Derek Carr has completed 63.5% of his passes for 3,705 yards (7 yards per attempt), 25 touchdowns, and six picks for a passer rating of 95.2. Amari Cooper is his top target, catching 74 passes 1,038 yards and four touchdowns, while Michael Crabtree has caught 77 passes for 866 yards and eight touchdowns. Latavius Murray has had a good season as a running back as he’s rushed for 747 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 4.2 yards per rush.

Oakland’s defense, on the other hand, has not been as great, as they’re 21st in points per game allowed and 30th in yards per game allowed. So this weekend could be a high-scoring game. The bottom line, though, is that the Colts have a tough challenge facing them this weekend in a Raiders team that has their sights set on a division title and a first round bye.