One of the better parts about finishing the season with a Raiders’ rematch is it really illuminates how much 2019 changed each team. The last time these two met Oakland was reeling off of the Antonio Brown saga while the Broncos were an unproven team with new schemes on both sides of the ball.
Now Denver has the youngest starting offense in football, but a 3-1 record over Drew Lock’s first four starts. Meanwhile Jon Gruden finally stopped the bleeding last week with a win over the Chargers after a month long losing streak. Oakland is hoping to make the playoffs, which gives Fangio and the Broncos a chance to really take their revenge for the 24-16 loss to open the year.
To get a better idea what the team is facing I spoke with Silver and Black Pride’s Cyril Penn. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
1st and 10
Maxx Crosby and Maurice Hurst have really stood out to me when I dug into the Raiders. How do you like their chances this weekend with the Broncos line?
It seems that the Broncos offensive line cohesion has improved considerably as this season has progressed, so I don’t expect the Raiders defensive line to have as easy of a time against Denver as most fans do. Maxx Crosby will do his thing no matter who is in front of him. That man is tenacious as hell and will make one or two splashy plays each game that come as a result of relentless effort.
It’s interesting that Hurst stood out to you, considering that a lot of Raider Nation has underrated his performance this season. As a pass rusher, Hurst is an asset who shoots the A gap well and creates interior pressure about as well as any 24-year old DT in the league. The problem with Hurst is that he can be taken advantage of at the point of attack against the run.
If Dalton Risner and Connor McGovern double team on while DUO blocking for a run off the left A gap in a double tight set, Philip Lindsay will have a ton of room to work with.
DE Maxx Crosby (@CrosbyMaxx) beats the TE with a swim move to get into the backfield and make this tackle for a minimal gain. Crosby just shows up every time you turn the film on. #Raidernation pic.twitter.com/UXgeLrJSEL— Ryan Holmes (@Rholm22) December 24, 2019
2nd and 7
Beyond the pass rush, Oakland’s had a lot of trouble in coverage this season. How do you expect Guenther to try and slow down Drew Lock and Courtland Sutton?
Paul Guenther has finally started mixing up his blitz packages over the last two weeks after being embarrassed against the Titans, and I expect more of the same against Lock. Expect a heavy dose of pre-snap coverage disguises as well, one of the rare things the Raiders have done well this season.
As far as matching up with Sutton goes, if Trayvon Mullen is available the Raiders will simply have him match up with Sutton and press the hell out of him on almost every snap. If Mullen is out, I expect the Raiders to put Mullen’s backup (either Keisean Nixon or Nevin Lawson) on Sutton, while mixing in a healthy dose of bracket coverage.
Some #Raiders fans want a new Defensive Coordinator. Personally, I like Paul Guenther. He has been doing a Much Better job with the DL, getting them to stunt successfully & putting some pressure on the QB.— Sanjit T. (@Sanjit__T) December 24, 2019
Could the recent success be the younger players getting more experience? pic.twitter.com/QVzJYBQ5Wk
3rd and 3
One way Derek Carr has really hurt Denver in the past is with his prowess in the quick game. Do you expect that to continue this weekend, and how could Fangio combat it?
Carr always gets it out quick and Jon Gruden’s west coast offense has designed checkdowns on every passing play, two of the main reasons why the Raiders have allowed the least QB hits in the NFL this season. The best way for Fangio to throw off the Raiders offense is to stop the run on first down and force the Raiders into 3rd and long situations, where Carr has been much less effective this year.
Throws that can easily go unnoticed:— Raider Cody (@RaiderCody) December 22, 2019
Derek Carr can see the LB is in a spot to make a big hit on his TE Darren Waller. So he throws it behind him, eliminating a big collision after the catch.
Noticed this on Sunday, had to go back and find it. #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/M792eSue7H
4th and inches
How do you expect Gruden to attack the Broncos’ defense?
Hunter Renfrow has emerged as a top tier target on third down situations, so I expect Gruden to try to get him matched up on linebackers with an array of drag routes and deep crosses.
Other than that, Gruden’s offense is quite formulaic no matter what team he’s facing. He wants to establish the run on early downs, get into manageable third down situations, and covert with quick passes. This formula breeds long, methodical drives that keep the Raiders raggedy defensive off the field when working, but if they can’t run the ball it’s rendered useless.
Jacobs has been dealing with a shoulder injury for several weeks and has missed two of the last three games because of the issue. It’s apparently not the only health issue for the rookie.
Can you lay out the most likely scenario as you see it?
Derek Carr has been terrible in sub-40 degree weather, so it’s hard to trust the Raiders offense in this one. I expect that the Raiders play an inspired first half and stake a 14-7 lead, but I think Drew Lock will get the Denver offense going as the game wears on and the Raiders offensive attack will face more of their second half woes in the cold.
Broncos 21, Raiders 17