OAKLAND (AP) — The path for the Oakland Raiders is simple after they clinched their first playoff berth in 14 years. Win the final two games of the season starting with Indianapolis on Saturday and the Raiders will be AFC West champions and get a first-round bye.
“It’s nice to go out there and just concentrate on the game at hand because nothing else really matters,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “It really doesn’t this time. I say it all the time, but in real life, it really doesn’t matter. We can just go out and compete and try and win games. That’s really all that matters to us is going out there against Indianapolis, and however we have to do it, coming home with the win.”
The situation for the Colts (7-7) is much more complicated than for the Raiders (11-3). Indianapolis needs to win its final two games, hope Houston loses both and Tennessee loses this week to Jacksonville.
As much help as the Colts need, they know none of it will matter if they don’t win a tough road game against the Raiders.
“We understood the position you put yourself in when you can’t control your own destiny,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. “All we have to worry about is ourselves. If things work out, great, but we have to take care of our end of the deal.”
Here are some other things to watch:
HIGH SCHOOL MEMORIES: The meeting between Carr and Luck will be the first in the NFL, but not the first ever. The two played a high school playoff game in Texas nine years ago. Carr’s team won the game, but Luck made quite the impression.
“I remember him just running all over us,” Carr said. “I remember he ran over somebody and I was like, ‘Quarterbacks can do that?’ You know? I just remember him being super talented. It was a fun game, but I think we got beat the next week or something short thereafter.”
CHASING 1,000: Each week it seems Colts RB Frank Gore chases another milestone . This week, he needs 109 yards to become the first Colts runner to reach 1,000 yards in a single season since Joseph Addai in 2007. If he makes it to 1,000, Gore would join Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith (11), Curtis Martin (10), Walter Payton (10) and Barry Sanders (10) as the only players in NFL history with nine or more 1,000-yard seasons in their career. Gore also would become the first player age 33 or older to achieve the feat since the 35-year-old John Riggins did it in 1984.
GROWING UP: A week ago, the Colts started three rookies on the offensive line, and for the first time all season did not give up a sack. They also paved the way for Gore’s second 100-yard game of the season. Even if veterans Joe Reitz (back) and Denzelle Good (concussion) return to action this weekend, the Colts may want to see if the three-rookie lineup could be the key to their future success.
DANCING PUNTERS: There’s not usually a lot of focus on punters but these two can put on quite a show.
Oakland’s Marquette King and Indianapolis’ Pat McAfee are both known for performing celebratory dances after good kicks. King even joked there might need to be a pregame dance-off at midfield to determine who is best.
They also both are pretty good punters, with McAfee leading the AFC in gross (49.1 yards) and net punting (42.8). King ranks second in the conference with 28 punts inside the 20, and in gross punting (47.8 yards).
“He’s kind of grown into this superstar at punter,” McAfee said. “He’s getting better and better. I think in a couple years he’ll be the best guy in the league. But I love the hype and appreciation that he brought for punters. It’s good for punters. It’s great for my position. It’s good for my peers. So I’m a big fan of Marquette King.”
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Strangely, the Colts have better been a road team than home team this season. They’ve won four straight road games since losing in overtime at Houston on Oct. 16. On their last two road trips, they’ve dominated, beating the New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings by a combined score of 75-16. A win in Oakland would give the Colts a 5-3 record on the road for the third time in four years.