The last time the Broncos faced Vegas they woke up with a hungover. Drew Lock threw four interceptions as the Raiders bludgeoned the Broncos with Josh Jacobs to the tune of 112 yards and two touchdowns. The loss knocked Denver to 3-6 and marked a bit of a turning point for Pat Shurmur and his young offense. Facing a dangerous blitz scheme in week 11, the Broncos moved away from the wide open looks towards a ground and pound type of attack. The change and Lock’s growth in the “new” offense makes the week 17 rematch an intriguing one. Can Lock’s progress hold up to a pressure scheme that so flummoxed a couple months ago?
I reached out to Silver and Black Prides’ Cam Mellor to get his thoughts.
1st and 10
As best you can tell, how do things look in Vegas? They’ve lost two heartbreaking games and fell out of the playoff hunt. What are the odds Denver catches a locker room ready to pack it in and move on with their lives? Or do you think Gruden keeps them dialed in to finish strong?
Mellor: It’s hard to say they haven’t already packed it in and are just waiting for the draft. But I’m talking about the fans. The team is still *seemingly* fired up to end the season on a positive note after losing five of their last six. A once-promising season has now been left with a shadow of doubt cast upon it, and it’s not just any one particular area of concern. There are coaching decisions, player personnel, staff hires, decisions at every level. I’d love to say Gruden keeps them dialed in, as you put it, but it’s hard to see 10-year, $100-million job security as one to continue pushing after the heartbreak over the last six games to have any faith in that statement.
Jon Gruden stands by his choice to play for a field goal. pic.twitter.com/MfhEmOyfyW— ESPN (@espn) December 27, 2020
2nd and inches
Chucky fired Paul Guenther after the loss to the Colts. Since then, the run defense has made a huge jump in DVOA numbers. Is that by design or do you believe it comes down to favorable matchups against Miami and LA teams with shaky offensive lines? How can the Broncos best utilize their ground game Sunday?
Mellor: Oh, it’s definitely favorable matchups, because honestly, the defense has looked worse since the firing, in my opinion. It’s not all their fault, but the defense has been an absolute disaster in just about every game. There is no sustained pass-rush, even against mediocre offensive lines. There is no solid coverage moment this year, except against this Broncos aerial assault, so honestly, I expect a bit of the same if Denver is to take to the air with the same reckless abandon as they did the last time around.
Ah, haha, I almost make myself laugh too hard there. This unit can’t cover, so abandon the run game, throw it it all over the field if I’m Denver.
Counting plays that ended in penalty, Drew Lock wound up in empty gun 7 times the first time the Broncos faced the Raiders.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 30, 2020
He's done so twice since. pic.twitter.com/I1B3i0Q3dJ
3rd and 5
The Broncos cornerback situation is down to rookie Michael Ojemudia and three players picked up from other teams in recent weeks. How do you expect Vegas to attack them?
Mellor: With a little bit of what has worked for them so well over the course of the season — Nelson Agholor deep and Darren Waller eating up targets over the middle of the field and in the short game. Waller is at his best in space, which sounds crazy for a man his size. And Agholor has become the deep threat that everyone thinks Henry Ruggs can become. Obviously, those two have different skillsets, but Agholor has been dominant deep and Carr has developed quite a rapport with him there. I’d expect a heavy dose of that against a Broncos secondary with UDFA and college stars who have been unproven to this point of their NFL career.
On a side note, I fully expect Parnell Motley to make a play in this game if he’s in action.
Justin Herbert went after Parnell Motley for a 3rd down TD. No dice. pic.twitter.com/yhdBQkrpHf— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 27, 2020
4th and inches
What has stood out most to me about Vic Fangio is how his redzone defense continues to protect the endzone. Denver’s allowed touchdowns on just 47% of redzone trips this year, which is best in the league by a country mile. How do you expect Carr to try and cash in on their opportunities?
Mellor: It’s Waller Time in the red zone, or at least it should be. He’s a walking, talking, leaping mismatch of a player no matter the level of the field and that only gets magnified in the red zone. That’s what I’d do, especially against a talented defense when they have the field working with them. Gone are the deep threats; bad is the offensive line; throw it to Waller just not on a goal line fade.
Prediction for the game?
Mellor: Well, I was here a few weeks ago, wasn’t I? And what did I do? I picked the Broncos to win. So, when I do what I am about to do, don’t say it’s just some favoritism because I write for Silver & Black Pride, because clearly I was WRONGED by your beloved Broncos. Las Vegas wins a close one, but it’s ugly. Ugly by all parties. But someone has to win.
Who ya got?
This poll is closed
Broncos by a ton.
Broncos by a little.
Raiders by a ton.
Raiders by a little.