The Raiders’ game Sunday at Indianapolis is one of their most important of the season.
Win and the Raiders are off to London to play Khalil Mack and the Bears with a 2-2 record.
But lose and they are 1-3 and looking at a 1-6 nightmare. Bears. Packers. Texans. All on the road.
Beating the Colts will not be easy. They are favored by 6½ points. I don’t recommend betting on the Raiders unless the line goes to 7, which it has at some sportsbooks with added juice to take the points.
The Colts are dealing with significant injuries. Star linebacker Darius Leonard, who led the NFL in tackles and was the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, will miss the game because of concussion symptoms.
Keep an eye on the condition of wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who missed practices this week with a quad injury and is listed as doubtful. With 20 catches for 195 yards and four touchdowns in three games, he is the key to quarterback Jacoby Brissett attacking down the field.
The Colts don’t have another receiving weapon like Hilton. A year ago, it was Andrew Luck beating the Raiders in Oakland, but he used a combination of his tight ends. Brissett needs Hilton to stretch the field.
The Colts are strong with a running game ranked sixth in the NFL. Marlon Mack has run for 299 yards. With Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines adding 105 yards between them, they can rotate backs against a Raiders defense that ranks 19th against the run and had trouble containing Dalvin Cook in a loss at Minnesota last week.
It’s time for quarterback Derek Carr to step up and make plays for the Raiders. If he is to be coach Jon Gruden’s quarterback in Las Vegas next season, he needs to put touchdowns on the scoreboard. Yards don’t cut it, and he isn’t getting many of those.
Carr’s average pass is traveling 6.6 yards in the air, ranking him 24th in the league, according to PlayerProfiler.com. He has to get the ball down the field, make big plays and be more patient in the pocket. Sometimes he gets happy feet and makes decisions way too early.
It will be fun getting back to Indy and visiting the Brickyard for a side trip with some players. There are many great memories from covering the Indianapolis 500.
With that in mind, maybe we should find Tony George to rework that famous command:
Raiders, start your offense.
Brent Musburger’s betting column appears Saturday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He is host of “My Guys in the Desert” weekdays from 2 to 4 p.m. on VSiN.com, SiriusXM 204 and 920 AM The Game.