On September 29, 2019 the Indianapolis Colts will host the Oakland Raiders. In this week four match up I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea of how they may attack our new-look Colts.
The last time these two teams faced off, in 2018, Derek Carr threw three touchdown passes while Andrew Luck threw three of his own. The final score was 42 to 28 with our Colts on top but the score was 21 to 28 heading into the fourth quarter. It was a game the Colts probably didn’t deserve to win as the defense didn’t look like it could stop the living members of the ‘72 Miami Dolphins undefeated team. I mean they couldn’t stop them as elderly men, not in 1972. It was bad. In fewer than 12 months, both teams are somehow very different than a year ago. Hopefully the result is the same.
Let’s figure out what we can expect in week four.
Daniel Carlson is the reason you shouldn’t draft a kicker. In the 2018 NFL draft the Minnesota Vikings selected Carlson in the 5th round. I know, I know, it was “just” a day three pick but Carlson missed three out of his first four kicks in Minnesota and was cut after just two days with the team. The following players were drafted after Carlson and are currently contributing for the teams that drafted them: Jordan Wilkins, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, John Kelly, Deon Cain, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Equanimeous St. Brown (on IR but had a promising rookie year given his draft slotting), Ryan Izzo (started two games in 2019 at TE for the Patriots), Justin Jackson (averaging nearly 8 yards per carry and averaging 6 carries per game this season for the Chargers), Auden Tate, Trey Quinn.
Since arriving in Oakland Carlson has been very good hitting 18 of 20 field goals and all 24 extra point attempts. Drafting a kicker is usually a bad idea but if you do it you need to be ready to value him like the Colts value Adam Vinatieri.
A.J. Cole is the perfect example of why you don’t waste a draft pick on a kicker. The Raiders signed Cole as an undrafted free agent out of NC State. So far Cole has a net average of 40.5 yards per punt while downing five inside the opponents 20. Neither of those numbers is great. Both a a little worse than middle of the back, but he’s a rookie, he will improve, the Raiders aren’t really competing for much of anything this season, yet they have competent punter with tons of upside and they gave up nothing to get.
This is special teams, team building done correctly. Also Rigoberto Sanchez ranks behind Cole in both net yards and punts downed inside the 20, but he also hasn’t had many opportunities.
Dwayne Harris is a legitimate kick and punt returner. In his 9 year career Harris has five returns that have gone for touchdowns. One would think that at 32 years old Harris would be on his way to slowing down but just last year he returned a punt 99 yards for a touchdown and has already returned a kick for 72 yards this season.
Harris could present a very real problem for a Colts special teams unit that has struggled at times in the early part of the season.
Final Thoughts for The Week:
In 2018 Jon Gruden and the hapless Raiders hosted our Indianapolis Colts and for much of the game, he had Matt Eberflus’ number. It is my not so humble opinion that Jon Gruden’s best days as a playcaller are very far in the past. It’s possible he could have a renaissance of sorts and surprise us all, but I seriously doubt it.
So far this season the back end of Matt Eberflus’ defense has looked much different than what we saw in 2018. Malik Hooker has been tasked with playing more single high coverage, something he excels in while the team is playing significantly more man coverage. The Colts’ issues on defense haven’t been with the pass as much as they have struggled to stop the run, ranking 13th in passing yards allowed and 20th in rushing.
With Hooker set to miss extended time, Eberflus is going to have to go away from the single high looks that Gruden had yet to see and revert back to more cover 2, man cover 2 and quarters coverage, like we saw in 2018. When you couple that with the fact that the Raiders offensive line is their strongest position group on that side of the ball and their stud rookie running back, all of a sudden this game doesn’t seem like such a walk in the park.
After all of that I still have more concerns. T.Y. Hilton has drawn more targets (25) than the next two players (Eric Ebron 11, Nyheim Hines 10) combined. If Hilton is unable to play Jacoby Brissett is going to have to find a new favorite target and fast. The other concern I have is that despite the feeling all Colts fans are riding after their week three performance against the Atlanta Falcons, not many are taking into account just how many times the Falcons bailed the Colts out with penalties. The Falcons had 16 penalties that gave the Colts 128 additional yards compared to the 39 yards the Colts gave up on their four called penalties. Seven times the Falcons committed penalties that resulted in a first down for the Colts. They negated one first down of their own on an offensive pass interference call late in the third quarter. The Colts were bailed out by penalties eight times that resulted in either a first down on offense or a negated first down for the defense.
Pretending that didn’t have an impact on the game is foolish. Pretending we can count on such a lopsided number of flags going against every opponent this season is foolish. This Raiders game is trouble.
Now I’ve said all of that to say this; this Colts team, even without Hilton, Hooker and Darius Leonard (if he doesn’t clear concussion protocol) is a far more talented team than the Oakland Raiders. They’ve played better football on offense and defense. Frank Reich has coached offensive circles around Jon Gruden in 2019. I think in the end the Colts pull this game out, but it has a chance to be very ugly.
- Josh Jacobs will go over 120 yards on the ground for the Raiders.
- The football world will anoint Jacoby Brissett after a big day without T.Y. Hilton.
- Derek Carr’s lack of poise in the pocket will result in a turnover that seals the victory for the Colts in the closing minutes of the game.
- Final Score: