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All signs point to Pryor being Raiders starter in Week 1

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The Canadian Press
9/4/2013 6:57:28 PM
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Indianapolis Colts come into the season opener with a proven quarterback, a playoff pedigree and the home-field advantage over the Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders are hoping the element of surprise will be enough to overcome those hurdles.

Coach Dennis Allen is refusing to name his starting quarterback for "competitive" reasons even though all signs point to Terrelle Pryor getting that call over Matt Flynn on Sunday in Indianapolis.

"I'm preparing like I always do, like I will be the starter," Pryor said Wednesday.

The San Francisco Chronicle and NFL.com reported Monday that Pryor would start. He has opened practice with the first-team offence this week and has been getting plenty of work with the starters in a clear sign that he will be the No. 1 quarterback Sunday.

But Allen wants to wait until Sunday to make an official announcement in hopes of making the Colts prepare for two possible quarterbacks.

"Whether it gives us an advantage or not, we'll see," Allen said. "We're preparing to play the Indianapolis Colts. We'll have a plan in place and our guys are ready to go."

Indianapolis is set at quarterback with Andrew Luck ready to begin his second season under centre.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he has had to prepare to face two quarterbacks before and acknowledges it is easier when a defence is able to spend the week focusing on just one.

"You deal with it and you get the plays in that you feel like you're going to see," he said on a conference call. "We know that both guys are capable and we know both guys can beat you. We'll do our due diligence throughout the week in preparation for the game and prepare to face whoever lines up under centre."

Flynn was brought in during the off-season to be the starter after Oakland dealt a 2014 fifth-round pick and a conditional 2015 pick to Seattle. The Raiders also reworked Flynn's contract, giving him $6.5 million guaranteed.

The Seahawks had targeted Flynn to be their starter the previous season when they gave him a $26 million contract based mostly on two strong starts in Green Bay, but he was beaten out for the job by rookie Russell Wilson and was deemed expendable.

Flynn opened training camp getting almost all the work with the first-team offence but he struggled in the preseason games. In 13 drives, Flynn committed three turnovers and led the Raiders to just two scores. He was also sacked seven times and struggled to get the ball downfield with more than two-thirds of his passes travelling less than 10 yards.

Flynn sat out the last week of the exhibition season with a sore right elbow but has been back at practice this week and Allen said the elbow is not a factor.

Pryor has been much more effective this preseason, albeit playing more of his time against second-team defenders than Flynn did as the starter the first three games. The Raiders scored 32 points on Pryor's 14 drives as his scrambling ability and athleticism in the read-option gave the Raiders' struggling offence a needed added dimension.

"It's hard to stop a guy that has a mind of getting better every day," Pryor said. "People keep hearing me say that and I don't know if they take me serious. I'm serious."

Pryor has just one career start and has thrown only 30 passes in his first two seasons in the NFL. But he accounted for three touchdowns in the season finale against San Diego and is a much more polished passer than he was when he came out of Ohio State two years ago.

"I see a little more confidence in him throwing it," said Raiders cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, a teammate of Pryor's on the Buckeyes. "When he was in college, sometimes he'd make great throws and sometimes you'd be like, 'Why did the ball go like that?' The difference is he's confident on every play. He makes a read and lets the ball go. That's the biggest difference."

Whoever ends up starting on Sunday will be the eighth different starter in the last 10 season openers for Oakland. Only Jason Campbell and JaMarcus Russell have started two openers since 2004, with the only win coming when Campbell helped beat Denver in 2011.

NOTES: LT Menelik Watson tweaked his knee during practice and was limited. If he is unable to play, Khalif Barnes would move over to the right side and newly signed Tony Pashos would start. ... TE David Ausberry did not practice with a shoulder injury. ... K Sebastian Janikowski sat out with an injured right calf but is expected to play Sunday.

Terrelle Pryor  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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