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Broncos vs Raiders preview: Denver looks to keep slim playoff hopes alive

The Broncos are technically still in the playoff discussion and a win over the Raiders keeps hope alive.

The Denver Broncos have still have a chance.

Around 5% or so, but still, it’s something.

To keep what remaining hope is alive, the Broncos need to beat the Las Vegas Raiders. Both teams sit at 7-7 and still, technically, have a shot at the playoffs.

At DraftKings Sportsbook, Denver is the slight underdog to the Raiders (7-7). After the Broncos loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, they opened as the slight favorite. As for the total, the over/under sits at 42.5. A friendly reminder that the under is 11-3 in Denver games this season. However, the over hit the last time these two met in Week 6, a 34-24 Las Vegas win.

Offensive Rankings

Denver: Eighteenth in overall offense (341.2 yards per game), ninth in rushing (123.8), 19th in passing (217.4), 23rd in scoring offense (20.4 points per game).

Las Vegas: Tenth in overall offense (369.3 yards per game), 29th in rushing (85.6), fourth in passing (283.7), 18th in scoring offense (21.4 points per game).

Defensive Rankings

Denver: Fourth in overall defense (319.4 yards per game), 10th in rushing defense (106.8), sixth in passing defense (212.7), tied for second in scoring defense (17.4 points per game).

Las Vegas: Seventeenth in overall defense (348.0 yards per game), 25th in rushing defense (122.7), 29th in passing defense (225.3), 30th in scoring defense (26.7 points per game).

Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Sunday’s game.

Don’t turn the ball over

If the Broncos want any shot in Las Vegas, the offense simply cannot turn the ball over. The defense is already doing yeoman’s work, giving the Raiders extra possessions is playing with fire. — Ian St. Clair

Drew Lock proves he can play QB

For Drew Lock fans to be right and Drew Lock haters to be wrong. The Raiders defense is not that good, so this is a perfect opportunity for Lock to prove all of his doubters wrong. Get out there and ball out and get the win to put the Broncos back into the playoff conversation heading into Week 17. — Tim Lynch

Offense has to be better

We don’t need to talk about the defense anymore. They show up every week. I wouldn’t blame them if they just said “screw it” and decided to not show up. It’s obvious what needs to happen; the offense has to be better. QB, play calling, pass protection, all of it. Everyone on offense has to magically get better at their job. We can’t have wide receivers dropping passes. Can’t have running backs fumble. The offense has to get better! That’s how they can win the game. Now say it with me, “No Duh!” — Adam Malnati

Getting turnovers

With the defense locking down better offenses than the Raiders’ lately, but the offense being utterly unreliable, a little bit of ball-hawking may be the difference between victory and defeat. I want to see our guys ripping at the ball every time a Raiders RB gets stood up, and Patrick Surtain II, Justin Simmons, & co consistently putting themselves in position to not only break up passes, but come down with the ball themselves. — Taylor Kothe

Make life easy for Drew Lock

It will be absolutely critical for Garett Bolles and Bobby Massie to limit the damage Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakaoue do, as they’re one of the better edge duos in the league. The hope here is Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam help out with chips quite often. The Raiders also have issues stopping the run up the middle, which should be an invitation to hammer them with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams on inside zone early and often.

Denver typically plays most of their snaps out of 11 personnel, but it’d make sense to go with more 12 and 21 this week. That should push Vegas into more personnel groupings where they’re leaning on their shoddy linebacker corps. These heavier sets also tend to create the expectation of a run, which should help to open up the play-action passing game.

When Lock does have to drop back to pass, it should be on simple concepts with predefined reads so he can serve as little more than a delivery system putting the ball in the receiver’s hands. — Joe Rowles

What are your keys to Sunday’s game?