The Raiders are in bad need of a win to lift both Raider Nation and team morale. But with a deeply depleted offensive line, beating the Colts will be a talk task for Jon Gruden’s team.
As is the case with most teams at mid-season in the NFL, getting healthy was the theme of the Raiders bye this past week. No unit on the roster needed the rest more than the offensive line, or at least what is left of it.
Starting left guard Kelechi Osemele has missed time with an MCL sprain and just returned to practice in a limited role on Friday. To make matters worse, back up guard Jon Feliciano left the game in London with a rib injury of his own. Even the Raiders reserves are banged up.
“Well, it will depend on, obviously, who the left guard is,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said after practice. “K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] practiced a little bit today. He’s one of the best guards in the league, and when you don’t have him, it’s a huge loss. [Jon] Feliciano got hurt after three or four plays, so that’s a huge loss. We’ll see. Hopefully, K.O. can play, hopefully, Jon can play if need be. Hopefully, the week off helped our young tackles get healthier as well.”
Hopefully is right.
Indianapolis does come into this game with a defense ranked 21st in yards and 24th in points surrendered. Those are numbers that seem to indicate this could be a game the Raiders offense can use to get back on track. That notion is dashed somewhat by the fact that they are tied for fourth in sacks notching 21 so far this season. Oakland, on the other hand, has surrendered an average of 2.8 sack per game this year which doesn’t seem too shaby at first. That number grows to an average of four per game over the course of their last three contests including giving up six sacks to the Seattle Seahawks in London.
Facing a quarterback like Andrew Luck is going to put even more pressure on the Raiders offense to try and keep pace. The Colts have an offense ranked 17th in yards but 10th in points and could have a field day against Oakland’s defense which ranks 26th in yards and a downright awful 29th in points surrendered.
In contrast, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is at the helm of an offense that ranks 16th in yards but most disappointingly, 28th in points. He is the reason they are 10th in passing yards but without the points on the board to show for it. These rankings seem to indicate he will need to keep pace with his counterpart for the Raiders to have a shot to win this game. For that to happen, he will need time to orchestrate the game plan and find open receivers. For his sake, this bye week has given his offensive line time to heal so they can afford him that time.
This weekend’s contest is shaping up to be full of fireworks which seems to favor the visiting Colts. Having the extra week to prepare should allow the Raiders coaching staff to unveil some wrinkles in their game plan and give them an early advantage. They will need to capitalize on it as their defense has given up big plays this season. Matching those plays and points may be the only shot the home team has. The offensive line, and its ability to keep Carr clean, won’t just play a role in that endeavor, it may very well decide the game.