The NFL season continues into Week 4, as the Oakland Raiders travel to the Hoosier State to face the Indianapolis Colts. As always, Pinnacle’s resident NFL expert Mark Taylor provides a detailed overview of the week’s highlight game.
NFL Week 4 predictions
On Sunday, two sides who have already got off the mark meet when the 2-1 Indianapolis Colts entertain the 1-2 Oakland Raiders.
The plethora of first place finishes in the AFC South under Peyton Manning have become subsequently less frequent and largely dependent upon the arm and the fitness of Andrew Luck since 2012.
The Colts have remained competitive within a division that possibly lacks overall quality.
Twice in the last decade, just nine wins have been enough to secure the title and every divisional winner over that period has entered the post season at the initial wildcard stage.
AFC South division champions have a losing post season record since 2010 and that becomes even worse if we include their infrequent wildcard entries.
How will Andrew Luck’s retirement affect the Indianapolis Colts?
The Colts’ post Manning success came quickly under Andrew Luck, with three visits to the post season and two divisional titles, before he missed half of the 2015 season with a variety of injuries.
Shoulder surgery forced him to miss the entire 2017 season, when the Colts understandably went 4-12, but the optimism of 2018 when he again took the Colts to the post season as comeback player of the year, evaporated in 2019’s preseason.
Defensively in 2018, the Colts were slightly below par for points allowed and a better rushing defense than against the pass
Luck’s decision to retire has handed the team to Jacoby Brissett, a four-year veteran, who started the entire 2017 season in relief of Luck and can also count two starts for the Patriots amongst his resume, during Brady’s Deflategate suspension.
He’s experienced within the Colt’s system, but 2017 was a typically poor season from a raw quarterback.
The Colt’s passing game languished in the bottom six for the NFL, as Brissett’s low, sub 60% completion coupled with below par yards per attempt and a high sack rate, compared poorly to Luck’s output.
Brissett has fared better in the Colt’s three games in 2019, their only loss coming in overtime against the Chargers on the road. However, their two wins have been by the narrow margins of two and three points.
Completion rates have been impressively above 70% in this limited sample size, along with 7 yards per attempt and Brissett is already halfway to his total touchdown passes thrown in 2017 after just three matches.
The Colts’ passing efficiency takes a slight hit if we factor in the quality of the pass defences they have faced, but they do appear to have a strong running game, although this also comes with a small sample caveat and the disproportionate influence of a 63-yard touchdown carry in week one.
Defensively in 2018, the Colts were slightly below par for points allowed and a better rushing defense than against the pass. A frailty against the pass appears to remain in 2019, but their defensive efficiency against the run has also declined in their three games.
None of the transient, luck driven factors from 2018 were extreme, either in narrow wins or turnovers and their Pythagorean virtually matched their ten-win record, making Brissett replacing Luck the major factor for change in 2019.
Oakland Raiders analysis: Another season of disappointment?
Oakland fans have suffered almost perpetual disappointment since their last Super Bowl appearance in 2002.
Just one winning season and ten different head coaches is testament to the often chaotic state of the iconic franchise.
Offensively, Oakland were below par through the air in 2018 and the ground game fared even worse
Current head coach, John Gruden has been given unprecedented job security, but this could simply slowdown any rate of improvement for the beleaguered team.
His current quarterback, Derek Carr has occupied the starting role since he was drafted in 2014, taking the Raiders from 3-13 to the heights of a 12-4 playoff season in 2016 before returning very nearly to his inauspicious beginning in 2018.
Carr’s personal performances have fluctuated with the Raiders’ results, improving through his rookie season, peaking as a top 12 quarterback, but returning to around his 2015 levels in 2018, with injury in 2016 a possible mitigation.
Offensively, Oakland were below par through the air in 2018 and the ground game fared even worse, culminating in a side who scored an average of 5.5 points per game fewer than their opponents usually allowed.
Little has changed in the opening three games of 2019.
Defensively, they struggled badly against the pass, allowing nearly a yard per attempt more than the average gain of their opponents in 2018 and this trend has continued in 2019.
They were also well below average against the run, although they have shown more resolve this term.
Oakland were a four win team, with a 3.9 Pythagorean and only their turnover differential of -7, the 26th best in the NFL suggests any natural improvement.
Oakland Raiders vs. Indianapolis Colts: A tale of two quarterbacks?
Both sides have doubts about the longterm viability of their current quarterbacks, although Brissett inherits an offense that was designed to make a playoff push.
A Luck-led Colts side would be favoured by 14 points at home, but using scoring rates for this season and the Brissett downgrade, this drops their supremacy to eight points, a marginal lean towards the hosts against the spread and a total of 45 points.