After taking over as interim head coach after the firing of Josh McDaniels, Antonio Pierce made the decision to make Aidan O'Connell the starting quarterback for the Las Vegas Raiders. The rookie fourth-round pick had played in relief of an injured Jimmy Garoppolo early on in the season, but once McDaniels was let go, Pierce handed the keys to the car to the former Purdue standout.
As a rookie, there have been plenty of ups and downs for O'Connell, as he goes into his tenth start as the team's starting quarterback. He has shown incredible poise in the pocket, elite accuracy, and the ability to protect the football, but there have certainly been some bumps along the way.
Case in point was Week 16, as he protected the football against the Kansas City Chiefs, but did not complete a pass after going 9-of-11 for 62 yards in the first quarter. As has been his demeanor all season long, O'Connell did not lose his cool, and in the end, the Raiders pulled off a stunning victory over the hated Chiefs.
However, in order to beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17, O'Connell must find a way to get it going through the air.
Raiders need O'Connell to find Week 15 magic against the Colts
Week 15 was a seemingly breakout game for O'Connell, as he shredded the Los Angeles Chargers in a 63-21 victory for the Silver and Black. O'Connell finished that game with 248 yards and four touchdowns, as the Raiders mounted a 42-0 halftime lead that has kick-started what could be an improbable run to the playoffs.
In Week 17, the matchup with the Colts is a must-win game, as the Raiders would be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss. The Colts lost this past week to the Atlanta Falcons 29-10 thanks to a strong effort from Taylor Heinecke, who passed for 229 yards and a touchdown while being aided by rookie running back Bijan Robinson.
O'Connell has shown the ability to get it done in the passing game, and the Colts secondary will have their hands full with Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, and even Hunter Renfrow. The plan has to be getting him going early after a stunning three quarters in the passing game on Christmas Day, and if he can make big plays down the field, it will once again open up Zamir White and the rushing attack.
That will be the only way Las Vegas moves to .500 on the season.