Denis Savage: With your intimate knowledge of the team, what would you do to steal this game if you are the Raiders?
Eric Hartz: I'd try to do what most AFC South teams try to do: run the ball as much as possible to keep Peyton Manning off the field. When he is on the field, you must take some chances in the secondary. When the Colts lose — which they don't often do — it's not because their offense was shut down. It's usually because the offense turned the ball over too many times. The flip side of the coin is that if you take too many chances against Manning he'll make you pay.
Savage: Head coach Tony Dungy's last game in Oakland was a 45-0 drubbing at the hands of the Raiders when he was in Tampa Bay. The Bucs were riding a six-game winning streak at the time. Is he playing that up this week to show his guys that anything can happen?
Hartz: If he needs to do that, then Colts fans should be worried. The Colts are a veteran team of professionals, and they know that in the NFL, you can't take anyone for granted. Plus, a win would likely wrap up the AFC's No. 2 seed, so it's not like the Colts don't have plenty to play for.
Savage: Twelve wins in five consecutive seasons seems to be on the mind for the Colts. Is this a team that is going to rest their veterans over the next couple of weeks and does it start in this game? If so, who?
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Hartz: The Colts aren't going to take many chances with injured players, as they've proven with their handling of Marvin Harrison. That said, the Colts — who have battled injuries as much as any team this season, and will be without at least four starters Sunday — know that some rest is probably coming if they take care of business against the Raiders. But other than Harrison, I don't see anybody that's healthy enough to play sitting out unless the game is well in hand by the middle of the third quarter.
Savage: Peyton Manning hasn't been the same this year as in year's past. Is the loss of Marvin Harrison that big or does it have to do with dropped passes and Manning forcing some things that he normally doesn't?
Hartz: Some of it has to do with Harrison, for sure. Manning and Harrison have great chemistry, and when you take away such a big piece of the offense, you're going to struggle a bit. Some of it has to do with the fact that Manning has set such a high standard with his previous play that this season seems a bit subpar by those standards. He's still having a good season — just not as good as some of his previous years, and some other quarterbacks, by comparison, are having better-than-average seasons.
Savage: You let go of some veterans after the year but have had some young guys step in and perform well. Marlin Jackson has had an immediate impact. Did anyone expect these guys to be so good so soon and what has been the key to their success?
Hartz: I'll admit I wondered if the Colts were making the right moved when they let Jason David, Nick Harper and Cato June go in the off-season. I thought could be a step back for a defense that was finally moving forward. But the young defensive backs — Jackson, Kelvin Hayden and Antoine Bethea — have been absolutely fantastic, and Freddy Keiaho and even Tyjuan Hagler have been excellent at linebacker, and the young defensive linemen have been impressive as well. I think the key to their success is being right for Tony Dungy's scheme. Dungy and Bill Polian do a great job of identifying players that can play they style they want, and then put those players in a position to succeed.