Free NFL Pick: Indianapolis at Oakland 12-26-2010

December 26, 2010

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Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders

Sunday December 26th, 2010 4:15 EST

Line: Indianapolis -3

Overview:

At 8-6, the Colts are tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for first place in the AFC South. With Maurice Jones-Drew being knocked out with a leg injury this week, the Colts have a  chance to take a commanding lead in the division, should the Jaguars falter without MJD and they take advantage of playing a favorable end of the season schedule. It is odd that Peyton Manning is fighting for a playoff spot at this time of the year, but given the circumstances he has faced this season, it is no surprise that the situation has arisen.

The 7-7 Raiders probably won’t be able to catch the Chiefs and Chargers, but it would be a huge step in the right direction if they could close out this season with a winning record. The Raiders are one of the most pleasently surprising teams in the NFL and even a .500 season has to be appealing to a fan base who has seen so much loss in recent years.

Keys to the Game:

  • The Raiders can’t afford to have Jason Campbell repeat his multiple interception performance he had last week against the Broncos. It resulted in a win last week, but it probably won’t this week, as Peyton Manning is under center on the other side. Campbell has done a decent job recently of playing conservative, methodical football. Trying to do too much can land Campbell in hot water, especially with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis in pursuit.
  • If the Colts can continue to get production out of Donald Brown, it will allow them to be more flexible on offense. At this point, most of the offense focuses on Peyton Manning throwing the ball to confused ex-practice squad athletes who lack talent and an ability to become acquainted with the complexities of the offense. Austin Collie lasted one game back and was forced back on the bench with a concussion, which is a shame because Manning could really use him at this point.

Key Matchup:

Darren McFadden Vs. Colts’ run defense

  • Darren McFadden has capped off his outstanding break out year with three 97+ yard performances in a row. The Colts allow just over 135 yards per game on the ground, so this should be another monster game for McFadden out of the backfield. The Raiders look like a much better team when McFadden is in the game. The Colts have to make him a priority and refuse to be enamored by the speed at wide out. Allowing a few big plays can alter the game, but letting Run DMC carve up the defense for four quarters will surely result in a loss.

Wrap Up:

The Raiders might not always hit, but I have a feeling this week. I hate betting against Peyton Manning under these circumstances, but he can’t do everything by himself. Until the Colts have some sort of legitimate threat at receiver besides Reggie Wayne, it is going to be difficult for them to come away with wins on a consistent basis. If they went to the playoffs in this state, they would likely be bounced out in the first round. Must win for both teams, so eciiting nonetheless.

Free NFL Pick: Oakland -3


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