Could this be it? The Colts can secure a spot in the playoffs with a home win against the Las Vegas Raiders, and DraftKings Sportsbook has them as eight-point favorites.
On paper, given the COVID-19 policy changes this week, Indianapolis should be in the driver’s seat. Carson Wentz’s status will be confirmed on Sunday morning but even before that happens, a lot of things are trending the Colts’ way. Most of the starting offensive line is expected to play after only one of them played the whole game in Arizona. Defensive leader Darius Leonard is expected to return with most of the starting secondary along with him.
The Raiders are expected to be without their best offensive player Darren Waller, who has been struggling to return from injury and who was placed on the COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Former Colt defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins has been questionable all week with a back injury. His status and health are key for Las Vegas as he is one of the better run defenders in the NFL. Without him, Jonathan Taylor could see more daylight between the tackles.
Indianapolis is playing with a ton of momentum. The culture has been on full display through HBO’s Hard Knocks, the first in-season feature. The Colts defeated the New England Patriots, in an impassioned game for players and the fan base. They defeated a reeling Arizona Cardinals team, despite the fact that they were severely short-handed for the game and had every reason to mail it in. Arguably, no team in the NFL is hotter than Indianapolis down the stretch.
This is a franchise that seems to have it all together.
On the other hand, the Raiders are a franchise marred by controversy. Former head coach Jon Gruden dominated headlines early this year before getting fired, only a couple of years into his record contract. Second-year receiver Henry Ruggs III got into a fatal crash while intoxicated and driving at reckless speeds, and will certainly never play in the NFL again — and likely will spend considerable time in prison. As mentioned, Darren Waller is the Raiders’ best player but he has missed considerable time.
At this point, the Raiders are a franchise that could be undergoing a serious transition. They’re on the brink of elimination from playoff consideration on Sunday afternoon. A loss would force franchise owner Mark Davis into a period of introspection.
Does the franchise turnover the entire coaching staff, starting with interim head coach Rich Bisaccia? Does the franchise stick with Mike Mayock as General Manager, despite the fact that he was hand-picked by Gruden? Do the Raiders stick with Derek Carr at quarterback, even though he’s been unable to score touchdowns or get Vegas into the end zone once the team moves into the RedZone?
The implications for both teams on Sunday are pretty huge. For now, the Colts are 8-point home favorites.