The Oakland Raiders defense, which ranks 11th in the NFL, has shown signs of improvement but has only shown it can slow down bad offenses like Buffalo and Tampa Bay. Oakland will need a stellar effort Sunday at the RCA Dome.
The Colts advanced to the AFC Title Game last season after years of first-round playoff failures before losing to eventual Super Bowl champion New England. The Indianapolis offense, however, has done one thing that few teams are able to achieve – keep the core of the unit together.
Offensive coordinator Tom Moore has been piloting the Colts' offense since 1998 and has great personnel at his disposal as they are able to switch between two-tight end or three-wide receiver formations. Of course, it helps when you have a triggerman like Manning who can audible his team into the right play and while you're at it throw in running back Edgerrin James, wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and tight ends Dallas Clark and Marcus Pollard. For good measure, the Colts have stalwarts up front in left tackle Tarik Glenn and center Jeff Saturday.
The core of that unit has been together for much of the last six years. The Raiders defense, meanwhile has just three returning starters from last season. Linebacker Danny Clark is one of those new faces and he used to face the Colts twice per season as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"He's been doing it a long time and the coordinator has been running this offense for years," Clark said. "They're very comfortable but we can capitalize on that stuff. If they get too comfortable we can jump on them early."
Stopping the Colts is basically a "pick your poison" approach.
"We just have to make sure Edgerrin James doesn't get many yards and then they have to resort to the passing game," Clark said.
However, if anyone knows what it takes to slow down the Colts, it's Oakland's first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. In fact, Ryan was the Patriots linebackers coach last season before joining the Raiders and has been on a coaching staff that has beaten the Colts five straight times.
The question is can Ryan put together the same aggressive gameplan that allowed the Patriots to beat the Colts 24-14 in the AFC Title Game. That game is one that many people say influenced rule changes.
It was decided defensive players had been given too much free reign, laying hands on receivers and rerouting them physically.
The result was reinstitution of the illegal chuck rules beyond 5 yards. As a result, the exhibition season featured games with more flags that a Fourth of July party.
What course of action will the Raiders take? Do the Raiders try to be physical?
"It's not that you can't do it (be physical), it's that you have to be willing to do it," Raiders free safety Ray Buchanan said. "You can't go out and try to trick yourself against Peyton. He's one of the smartest quarterbacks in the game today. We have to play our game, and that's to play physical. But we have to play smart and ... beat them up wherever we can."
Lingering Question for fansSilverandblack.com is asking you, the fan, which team other than the Denver Broncos do you enjoy seeing the Oakland Raiders beat more? And why?
Is it the Kansas City Chiefs? Is it the San Diego Chargers? Perhaps, do you still have lingering bitterness toward the New England Patriots? For that matter, is it the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Or is it the San Francisco 49ers? Again, the key part of the question is "other than Denver?"
Please e-mail your answer to Vince D'Adamo of silverandblack.com by no later than Thursday, October, 14th. You e-mail should be complete with first and last name, place of residence and occupation. Vince D'Adamo can be reached at