By Rick Brown
Week 3 was not a good week for the Denver Broncos (2-1) or the Oakland Raiders (2-1), as both teams lost on the road. The Broncos fell to the Buffalo Bills (2-1) while the Raiders lost to the Washington Redskins (2-1). Neither team wants to go to 2-2, so look for a good matchup between two talented teams.
The Raiders finished last season with a 12-4 record before the starting quarterback Derek Carr was lost for the season with a broken leg. While the Raiders made the playoffs, the team would go on to lose in the Wild Card round to the Houston Texans. During the offseason, the Raiders successfully coaxed Marshawn Lynch out of retirement and made a trade with the Seattle Seahawks to bring the Oakland-native back to the Silver and Black. Now the Raiders are looking to come into Denver and beat the Broncos. Neither team can afford another loss as the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs remain unbeaten.
Oakland Raiders (2-1)
The Raiders are a talented team and primed to win a lot of games this season. On the way to winning 12 games in 2016, the Raiders were considered potential Super Bowl contenders until Carr’s injury derailed the whole team. It is difficult for a team to overcome losing a starting quarterback. Now, the Raiders are taking this talented roster and trying to bring an AFC West title to Oakland.
It’s pretty perplexing that the Raiders offense is performing so poorly with so much talent on the roster. The offense will have to step on the gas against Denver, as the team is ranked 23rd overall in total yards on offense.
Last season, the team’s defense finished in the bottom part of the league and it appears the defense is continuing this trend, as it’s ranked 26th in the league in total yards allowed.
Carr has a lot of firepower to choose from when throwing the ball. Wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper make up a dynamic duo and can cause matchup nightmares for the Broncos. The offensive line has star players in Donald Penn and Kelechi Osemele, who help pave the way for Lynch.
In Week 2, former first-round player Cordarrelle Patterson provided a lot of speed out of the backfield and on punt returns against the New York Jets (1-2). Then the Raiders came out flat and could not get going against Washington on Sunday evening. This team needs to continue to gel in order to compete in the big games.
Talent does not only reside on the offensive side of the ball, as the defense is also loaded with skillful players.
On defense, the Raiders do not have a lot of big name players outside of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. This is an underappreciated defense with a lot of talent on the field. The secondary has safety Karl Joseph and cornerbacks David Amerson, Sean Smith and T.J. Carrie. This talented secondary is ranked 10th in passing yards while the rush defense is ranked 20th in the league. This unit is also in the middle of the pack in points against, at 13th. In order for this Raiders team to take the next step, it will have to continue to improve week in and week out. Look for a grizzled old veteran to take the lead of the offense while the secondary tries its best to compete against the Broncos No Fly Zone.
Players To Watch
Marshawn Lynch is not usually a vocal leader—he takes a different approach by leading with his actions. Look for Lynch to take this Raiders offense on his back and try to break through the tough Broncos defense. Against Washington, Lynch only touched the ball seven times, so expect his touches to greatly increase.
On the defensive side of the ball, keep an eye on the cornerbacks. David Amerson is considered a top talent and can keep up with Emanuel Sanders. On the opposite side, look for Sean Smith and T.J. Carrie to keep up with Demaryius Thomas and Bennie Fowler III. The Broncos and the Raiders match up well with each other, so this will be a hard-fought game.
Unlike the Bills defense, the Raiders defense is not that great at stopping the run. If the Broncos can get the run going, then the Raiders are in for a long day. Oakland will also be trying to unleash Lynch against the Broncos defense. The offensive unit of Carr, Crabtree and Cooper have had success in the past against the Broncos secondary. In the end though, it won’t be enough – look for the Broncos to earn a win on a last minute field goal, 30-27.