Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) in action during an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016 in San Diego. Oakland won 19-16. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND, Calif — Now that the Raiders have locked up an AFC playoff spot, the Silver and Black will look to earn a first-round bye.
The visiting Indianapolis Colts are just looking to stay afloat this season.
Oakland (11-3) will host Indianapolis (7-7) on Christmas Eve in the Raiders’ final home game of the regular season.
Kickoff set for 1:05 p.m. PT.
This game will feature two of the best young quarterbacks in the league in third-year trigger-man Derek Carr for Oakland, and fifth-year starter Andrew Luck for Indianapolis.
Carr has been dealing with a fractured right pinkie ever since he sustained the injury at home on Nov. 27 against the Carolina Panthers. Since that injury, Carr and the Raiders are 3-1.
On the season, Carr has passed for 3,705 yards, 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions, but has only completed 36-of-71 passes for 330 yards over the past two games.
The player that most have picked to be this year’s league MVP helped Oakland clinch its first playoff berth since 2002 with a 19-16 victory over the Chargers down in San Diego last Sunday. Oakland has the second-best record in the AFC behind the New England Patriots (12-2) and are one-game ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) for first place in the AFC with two games to go.
Carr was one of seven Raiders players, along with defensive Khalil Mack, wide receiver Amari Cooper, offensive lineman Keleche Osemele, Rodney Hudson, Donald Penn, and safety Reggie Nelson named to the AFC Pro Bowl team on Tuesday, the most players voted from one team.
Luck is having one of his better season, throwing for 3,631 yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but Indianapolis is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
Indianapolis carved up the Vikings, 34-6, in Minnesota in Week 15 behind Luck’s 21-of-28 passing for 250 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Frank Gore carried the ball 26 times for 101 yards and moved ahead of Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett for 10th all-time for most career yards from scrimmage. Gore, who should wind up in Canton, is just 109 yards shy of recording his ninth 1,000-yard rushing season in 12 seasons and would become the first Colts running back since Joseph Addai (1,072 rushing yards in 2007) to record a 1,000-yard rushing season.
Oakland’s defense has started to really come on recently, and now have two players this season who have won defensive player of the week for his performance on Sunday.
Linebacker Bruce Irvin joined Mack when he won the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against San Diego.
Irvin sacked Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers twice, and forced a Kenneth Farrow fumble on a third down play that was recovered by linebacker Malcolm Smith. Irvin also recorded six tackles in a strong performance for Oakland.
Irvin now has seven sacks and five forced fumbles for this season and he along with Mack’s 11 sacks, can add to their total against an Indianapolis offensive line that has gotten Luck sacked 40 times this season, tied for third most with the Denver Broncos.