The Las Vegas Raiders come into this Sunday’s matchup against the Indianapolis Colts hoping to keep their playoff hopes alive with a third straight win. Currently sitting with just a 19 percent chance to make the postseason, the Raiders would officially eliminate themselves from contention with a Week 17 loss.
The Colts, on the other hand, are on fire. They haven’t lost in over a month and currently have back-to-back wins over the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals. The Colts are led by superstar running back Jonathan Taylor, who is now up to 1,962 total yards and 19 total touchdowns. That will need to be the main focus of the Raiders: Stopping the run.
*Watch NFL games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)*
Raiders Week 17 X-Factor
One player who will need to step up and stop Taylor is our X-factor for this game: Edge-rusher Maxx Crosby. It may seem odd at first to have a pass-rusher as the X-factor when you need to stop the run, but that is how this Raiders defense has gone. When Crosby is staying in his run-lanes and chasing guys down from behind, he has one of the highest run-defense grades on the team. His run-defense was the reason he is a Pro Bowler this year.
To go along with the six sacks, Crosby also has 38 total tackles, four passes defended, eight tackles for loss, 25 quarterback hits, and four forced fumbles. He is also coming off perhaps his best game of the season last week against the Denver Broncos.
With the season on the line and the Raiders offense struggling to move the ball against a tough Broncos defense, it was up to Crosby and the defense to lead the team to victory. They did their part, and some more, holding the Broncos to just 14 points. Crosby was the star of the show with two sacks.
This week, it will be yet another game where the Raiders will need him to have a dominant performance. When a player is going to be crucial for a game, you would like him to be able to appreciate the moment instead of letting it swallow him up.
Crosby has a perspective that not many NFL players have because his past issues with alcohol had him in rehab in early 2020. He knows how bad it can be if you lose it all and he has shown this season that he is no longer taking any snap for granted. Perhaps no one can sum up Crosby’s journey from rehab to Pro Bowl X-factor for the Raiders better than himself:
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 21, 2021
His newfound sobriety has shown in his play, but it surely has not rubbed off on his teammates. While Crosby is graded as the second-best edge rusher in the NFL, every other starter along the Raiders’ front-seven is not even in the top 90 of their position, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF.)
That is about as big of a discrepancy between a team’s first and second-best front-seven player as you will find in the entire NFL. All the more reason for Crosby to be this week’s X-factor for the Raiders.