Tale Of The Tape: Oakland Raiders At Indianapolis Colts
- QuarterbackIt appears that a very long season is at hand for the Raiders, and it begins here against a team with a very solid future like the Colts. Dennis Allen knows who his starting quarterback is, but he isn’t saying whether it will be Terrelle Pryor or Matt Flynn. Pryor is more athletic and creative than Flynn, but neither quarterback is good enough to win consistently.Andrew Luck had a sensational rookie season and he helped the Colts become a playoff team last year. It should only get better for Luck from this point forward. He has the arm strength, quick release and accuracy to dominate any game. More importantly, he thinks the game like a solid veteran and he learns from his mistakes.
- OffenseThe best thing the Raiders have going for them on the offensive side of the ball may be their offensive line. Center Stefen Wisniewski is solid and right guard Mike Brisiel can also get the job done. The skill position players will struggle. RB Darren McFadden started 12 games last year and that’s the second-highest total of his career. Injuries regularly derail him. The receivers may be the worst in the league.The Colts could be much more explosive than they were last year because they added speedster Darius Heyward-Bey to start opposite Reggie Wayne this year. Heyward-Bey can stretch the field early in the game and that will allow Wayne to catch the ball on key plays. If Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) can’t play, Vick Ballard will give the Colts a credible running game.
- DefenseThe Raiders have turned over their defense to new coordinator Jason Tarver, and he is attempting to build a scheme that relies on speed and creates havoc for opponents. That sounds good, but the Raiders ranked 31st in sacks last season. They will look to Vance Walker at the DT spot and MLB Nick Roach to cause problems with their speed and instincts.The Colts have modeled their defense on the 3-4 that the Ravens played when they were a dominant team, but there is one thing lacking: they don’t have a viable pass rush. They must improve in that area this year in order to climb the ladder in the AFC. It seems that if OLB Robert Mathis (8.0 sacks) doesn’t get to the quarterback, nobody will. CB Vontae Davis improved dramatically last season and he is a force, as is FS LaRon Landry.
- Special TeamsThe Raiders have a big edge on special teams over most opponents they face. Sebastian Janikowski is a consistent point producer any time he gets a FG attempt of 55 yards or closer. Kick returner Jacoby Ford has gamebreaking speed and can change field position for the Raiders every time he gets an opportunity to carry the ball.Adam Vinatieri remains entrenched as the Colts’ placekicker. He did not have his best season in 2012 when he made 26-of-33 FG attempts, but the feeling remains that he will make his kicks when the game is on the line. P Pat McAfee averaged 48.2 yards per punt last year and he dropped 26 kicks inside the opponent’s 20.
The Colts authored one of the best stories of the year in 2012 with Luck leading the team to the playoffs and the inspiration the team received from head coach Chuck Pagano in his battle with leukemia. There’s no reason to think that the Colts won’t be as good or better this year as Luck becomes one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor