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Oakland Raiders Khalif Barnes (69) celebrates his touchdown catch against the Kansas City Chiefs in the third quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, November 7, 2010. (Nhat V. Meyer/Mercury News)

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders left for Indianapolis on Friday without naming a starting quarterback and with what coach Dennis Allen called "a clear plan on what we're doing inside this building."

If that plan, as expected, includes Terrelle Pryor as the starting quarterback over Matt Flynn, it would be a national story should the Raiders manage an upset win over the Colts on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The outside world is skeptical. CBS analyst and former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon was searching for answers when asked in a phone interview how a Pryor-at-quarterback scenario could be successful.

"The fact that he did play in a game last year, and that he did play in the preseason, that he's been around meetings, that's all positive," Gannon said. "The thing you worry about with a young guy like that is every year they pull the playbook on him and give him a new one.

"First (the offensive coordinator) was Hue Jackson, then it was Greg Knapp, and now it's Greg Olson. I'm a little worried about not having continuity, and quite frankly I don't think they're very talented at wide receiver or tight end."

Allen made it clear during training camp that Pryor would play in some situations as a non-starter to take advantage of his athletic skills. Olson installed pistol and read-option plays, and Pryor has also done some good work as a passer, most notably a 7-for-9, 93-yard effort against the Chicago Bears that included a 19-yard touchdown pass to Nick Kasa.

He followed that up by going 3 for 8 for 31 yards and an interception against the Seattle Seahawks, although Pryor did lead the Raiders to two field goals in three possessions.

NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell has concerns about the Raiders defense keeping the score close and putting Pryor in situations where he needs to bring the team from behind by passing.

In a close game, Cosell is eager to see another read-option quarterback to go along with Washingotn's Robert Griffin III, the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick and Seattle's Russell Wilson, all of whom run variations of it in their systems.

"There's a school of thought for those who believe that the read option and its principles can be successful in the NFL that it stresses the defense in many ways," Cosell said in a phone interview. "Not only does it stress the defense in the run game, but also it provides better opportunities in the pass game."

Cosell said the passing game is enhanced because defenses must commit an extra defender toward the quarterback and linebackers are "paralyzed" at the thought of the quarterback running, opening up middle areas.

"Even though Pryor is not a very good thrower at this point, if you provide easier opportunities, the thought process is the quarterback could be successful," Cosell said. "No one would suggest he's going to be Tom Brady, but he could be successful."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano believes defending Pryor will be a challenge.

"They do a great job of moving Terrelle around on bootlegs and rollouts and in the read option," Pagano said. "Sometimes when he drops back to pass, he can take off. You have to be disciplined with your pass rush to contain this guy. He can scramble to run or scramble to throw the thing down the field."

Gannon, who'll provide analysis for CBS on Sunday in Indianapolis, believes Pryor's success will be related to the success of a power running game the Raiders have been working on in training camp.

"I think the way it can work is if both backs, (Darren) McFadden and (Rashad) Jennings, get off to a terrific start, go to play action, then get the quarterback on the move and let him do the things he's comfortable doing," Gannon said.

In a national conference call, CBS analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher said he believes Allen's strategy of keeping the starter a secret is because the Raiders will end up playing both Pryor and Flynn.

"My interpretation of that whole situation in Oakland is that I don't think anybody won the job," Cowher said.

Added CBS colleague and former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms: "It's an incredible situation to be in the NFL with a quarterback situation like they've got."

  • Rookie tackle Menelik Watson is out and did not make the trip, meaning Khalif Barnes will play left tackle and Tony Pashos will start on the right.

    Practice squad tackle Matt McCants is expected to be officially promoted Saturday to be the third tackle. Strong side linebacker Sio Moore (foot) is questionable and will be a game time decision. Kaluka Maiava will start if Moore can't play.

    sunday's opener
    Raiders at Indianapolis,
    10 a.m. CBS