Oakland Raiders (0-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-0)
The Raiders suck. Like they’re really, really bad. They won 4 games last year and appear a long shot to even match that total this year. For one thing, they have over 50 million in dead money on their cap. Of their 10 biggest cap numbers this season, 6 are dead money cap casualties who are on other teams, 1 is a backup quarterback, and another is a kicker. They had a first round pick this off-season, for the first time since 2010, but for various reasons had to cut 2010 middle linebacker Rolando McClain, 2009 1st round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, and 2006 1st round pick Michael Huff this off-season, the latter of whom was actually still an asset for this team, but was a necessary cut for cap reasons.
Prior to drafting DJ Hayden 12th overall this past April, they had just two former 1st round picks on their roster, one of whom is a kicker. Hayden himself could be very behind the 8-ball as a rookie, as he wasn’t cleared for contact until late August after off-season surgery to repair scar tissue in his abdomen. Their cap situation also caused them to lose top defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, top linebacker Philip Wheeler, and leading receiver Brandon Myers this off-season.
On top of all of this, the Raiders will be without Jared Veldheer, one of their very few remaining good players, early in the season with a torn triceps. 2nd round rookie Menelik Watson, who has never played left tackle in his live, is supposed to play in his absence, but he’s dealing with a knee injury of his own. If he can’t go in this one, the Raiders would move Khalif Barnes to left tackle, which would be disastrous considering how overmatched he’s been on the easier right side over the past few seasons. Tony Pashos, a 33-year-old who didn’t play last season, would be the right tackle in that scenario.
The Raiders attempted to plug some holes with cheap signings of Vance Walker, Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett, and Charles Woodson defensively, but they’re, any way you look at it, a worse team than they were last season. They are going to be awful this season. However, the Colts had a lot of trouble beating awful teams last season. They only won 2 games all last season by more than a touchdown and that includes close calls against Tennessee, Kansas City, Buffalo, and Detroit, among others.
The good news for the Colts is the Raiders are worse than any team they played last season, including Kansas City. The Colts also should be a better team this season, though it probably won’t show in their win-loss record. Andrew Luck is going into his 2nd year in the league and should be better in Pep Hamilton’s system, which will resemble the one Luck ran at Stanford under Hamilton, rather than Bruce Arians’ system which had Luck throw 20+ yards downfield more than any quarterback in the NFL last season. He also should have a better offensive line, after being pressured more often than any quarterback in the NFL last season.
However, for all the money they spent this off-season, I don’t know that their supporting cast is that much better than it was last season, especially on defense. If this line were still -7 like it were before the pre-season, I could take the Colts, but as long as it’s -10, I can’t take the Colts, especially with all of the public action on them. They don’t have a history of blowing teams out and this could very well be week 1’s meaningless garbage touchdown for a backdoor cover that causes everyone to lose a ton of money game. That being said, I can’t put any money on the Raiders, even if they were -20. Indianapolis is also my Survivor Pick of the week. I’d be shocked if they lost this game.
Also, one note, I’m changing how I do picks this year. I’ll be grouping my picks into high confidence, medium confidence, low confidence, and no confidence picks. I’ll also have one pick of the week.
Indianapolis Colts 31 Oakland Raiders 24 Survivor Pick
Pick against spread: Oakland +10
Confidence Level: None