By Rick Brown
Both the Denver Broncos (3-7) and the Oakland Raiders (4-6) are coming off bad losses from Week 11. The Broncos fell to Cincinnati, 20-17, despite out-gaining the Bengals in total yards. This should have been a game the Broncos used to improve their record, but instead the Bengals did just enough to pull out a win.
Meanwhile, the Raiders traveled to Mexico City and hosted the New England Patriots (8-2). It was not a pretty sight, as the Raiders lost to the Patriots 33-8. It has been a disappointing season for Oakland, but a win over the Broncos could keep the team’s very slim playoff chances alive.
Oakland Raiders’ Record (4-6)
The Raiders had high expectations for this season after a 12-4 record last year. The return of a healthy Derek Carr along with the addition of Marshwan Lynch to an already potent offense meant the Raiders were set to take the next step into the playoffs. Instead, Oakland’s offense is ranked 21st in total yards, 14th in passing yards per game and 27th in rushing yards per game. This talented offensive team is only scoring 20 points per game.
The Raiders offense has obviously not been as special as it was last season, when the team was near the top of the league and scoring 26 points per game. That said, the Broncos’ secondary has not been executing properly the last few weeks and has given up 22 touchdowns on the year. Just last week, Andy Dalton threw for three touchdowns against the Broncos’ secondary, so Carr and company may be able to rebound and put some points up on the scoreboard.
The Raiders offense ended the 2016 season with a sour taste in their mouths. After Carr was lost for the season with a broken leg, the team limped into the playoffs and lost in the opening round. Fast forward to the 2017 season and the Raiders added some players on offense to help boost an already potent offense. Aside from Lynch, Jared Cook and Cordarrelle Patterson were added in the offseason but have not been able to help out. Carr has been inconsistent throughout the season and as such, the offense has not been executing properly. This could all change though, as the Broncos are coming into town with a defense that has been somewhat nonexistent as of late.
Not much has changed on the defensive side of the ball for the Raiders. Just like last season, the team ranks near the bottom of the league in most categories. Oakland is 26th in yards per game, 24th in passing yards allowed per game, and 23rd in rushing yards allowed per game. The defense is also allowing 24 points a game, and has yet to catch an interception on the year. The Raiders defense has only 14 sacks on the season and is negative nine in the turnover ratio. Superstar Khalil Mack is leading the Raiders in sacks with 5.5 on the season.
Though just like on offense, the Raiders defense may see their luck turn around when the Broncos offense comes to town as second-year quarterback Paxton Lynch will be making his season debut for the Broncos. Lynch has little experience in the NFL, with only two starts in 2016. The Broncos’ offensive line may also have a problem containing Mack, whose last multi-sack game was when he played against Denver.
Oakland fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton following their Week 11 loss, and promoted assistant head coach John Pagano to take over for Norton.
Players To Watch
Look for the regular superstars to make an appearance this week against the Broncos. Carr will test Bradley Roby early and often with big wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. The addition of a healthy Cook should test the Broncos’ secondary. Expect Carr to have a big game and look more like the QB of the 2016 season rather the current inconsistent player he’s been of late.
On defense—unless the Broncos consistently chip and add a tight-end to help block—Mack should be able to terrorize the right side of the Broncos’ offensive line. Another player to keep an eye on is kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. If the game does stay close, Tavecchio has a powerful leg.
Too much would have to happen in order for the Broncos to win. Meanwhile, the Raiders are playing in front of the home crowd and the team is not technically out of the playoffs. The Broncos seem to be looking more toward 2018 with the announcement that Lynch would be getting his first start.
The Raiders’ defensive line is too much for the Broncos to handle. Lynch will have little time to read the field or will be running out of the pocket. He may make some plays on the run, but it will not be enough. Expect the Broncos’ losing streak to continue to seven games as the team falls to the Raiders, 28-17.