The Denver Broncos find their playoff hopes on life support following the 15-10 loss to the Bengals last weekend. According to Football Outsiders’ playoff odds report, they have a 5% chance at the dance. They’ll need to win out to keep those slim hopes alive, which means they’ll need to buck some ugly recent history against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Fangio hasn’t won in Sin City as a head coach, and it wasn’t three months ago Derek Carr sliced up the Broncos’ defense on his way to a 34-24 victory in Week 6. The last time Drew Lock played in Vegas he had the worst game of his career, completing 48.94% of his passes, throwing four picks, taking two sacks, and fumbling once in the 37-12 drubbing.
To get a better idea as to what to expect in the upcoming tilt, I reached out to Silver and Black Pride’s Matt Holder.
1st and 10
The last time these teams played Rich Bisaccia notched the first win of his run as head coach. What are your thoughts on Bisaccia so far? Was that win more about the team making a statement post-Gruden, their matchups with the Broncos, or something else?
Holder: Bisaccia started out hot by winning his first two games and seems to be a really nice guy, but I don’t think he’s suited to be the Raiders head coach for the long term. Not only has the team hit a 2-5 skid since the bye week, but they seem to lack leadership, for example stomping on the Chiefs’ logo during the pregame and then getting stomped during the actual game.
I definitely think making a post-Gruden statement played a factor in the last matchup between these two squads, and Bisaccia gets credit for rallying the troops, but the Raiders haven’t been the same over the last couple of months. That’s not all on Bisaccia, though, and I do have to give him credit. I don’t know of many interim head coaches that have had to deal with a scandal from their predecessor and then the Henry Ruggs tragedy shortly thereafter. That’s a lot to overcome while also trying to make changes on the field.
Man, Carr lost 2 of the 5 starters on his O-line, his head coach, Henry Ruggs and Darren Waller! What would people say if Patrick Mahomes lost 2 of his O-linemen, Andy Reid, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce?— Carl Cockerham (@Ctwice32) December 22, 2021
2nd and 7
Last time around it seemed like Vic Fangio wasn’t ready for Greg Olsen until the second quarter. The Raiders averaged 8.2 yards per play in the first quarter as Carr led three scoring drives, and they also averaged 4.2 yards per carry. What can the Broncos do to slow down the Raiders offense?
Holder: Well, Ruggs played a big factor in that game with three catches for 97 yards and a touchdown and Las Vegas hasn’t found a suitable replacement for him, nor has their offense looked remotely the same. So I think that will play a big factor and work in Fangio’s favor.
With that, I think if the Broncos just sit back in coverage and let the front four get pressure, they’ll be able to slow down the Raiders’ passing attack. As far as running the ball goes, the Raiders offensive line struggles to run block and it seems like every play there is one lineman that misses their block and screws up the play. To make it more frustrating, it’s typically not the same guy play after player either and it’s almost like they take turns missing blocks, which I think has led to some trust issues with Josh Jacobs where he’s dancing too much in the backfield because he has no idea where the hole is going to be.
Also, Kenyan Drake was a big factor last time, and he’s done for the year so this is a really different Raiders offense than back in October.
Silver Minings: Raiders most penalized team in NFL #RaiderNation https://t.co/NmgJs19Nq9— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) December 21, 2021
3rd and 3
Does Gus Bradley’s game plan change with Drew Lock starting? How can the Broncos move the ball on this defense?
Holder: Lock being under center is one element of this game that I think will favor the Raiders. Quarterbacks that are willing to take what the defense gives them are typically able to pick Bradley’s defenses apart. Lock’s gunslinger mentality is exactly what Bradley’s scheme is designed for and I think we saw a little bit of that in the second half of the last game with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm.
The Broncos got down and had to push the ball down the field, but Bridgewater struggled to connect receivers on deep passes and started pressing, leading to a few interceptions to seal the win for Las Vegas.
Also, I’d lean on running the ball, especially to the left side. Maxx Crosby is a good run defender and Johnathan Hankins is solid, but Yannick Ngakoue and the rest of the Raiders’ defensive line struggle to hold up at the point of attack. The Browns were able to rush for over six yards a carry on plays that hit in the left B-gap or wider but were under two yards per attempt to the right side. Granted, Cleveland has a good rushing attack but they were also down two offensive linemen.
Yannick Ngakoue has consistently given up contain the past 4 weeks. This one is something else pic.twitter.com/j9OmFAuVN0— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) December 22, 2021
4th and inches
The Broncos special teams under Tom McMahon are abysmal. Do you expect the Raiders to capitalize?
Holder: The Raiders have had a few fake punts to pick up some shorter fourth-down conversations but other than that, their special teams have been pretty pedestrian. They aren’t bad in that area by any means, but I also don’t really see their special teams being a “game-changer”. Maybe if the Broncos’ unit is weak, we’ll be in for a surprise but anything I could say about the Raiders being able to capitalize would honestly just be a pure guess.
The Broncos special teams under Tom McMahon have allowed a blocked punt, a kick return TD, 40-yard punt returns, a backbreaking penalty on field goal block, and this blocked field goal.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 14, 2021
Fire the man already @Broncos pic.twitter.com/EkBXZoGRsu
What’s your prediction for this one? Broncos win if...? Raiders win if...?
Holder: This is a tough one. The Raiders haven’t shown much in the last month or so that makes me feel confident that they can beat another decent to a good team, but I also think the Broncos are so inconsistent and they will be starting a backup quarterback, so I can also see the Raiders winning this one.
However, to have my Lee Corso “not so fast my friend” moment on myself, I think the two teams are close enough to each other to assume they’ll split the season series and Las Vegas has struggled at home this season, so I’ll go Denver 14-10.
The Broncos will win this game if Lock can fight his natural urge to chuck it up deep and if they heavily feature Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon in the offense. Defensively, Fangio just needs to do what I mentioned before, sit back in coverage and force Derek Carr to beat you with a depleted receiving core.
The Raiders win if they can get back to using a lot of play-action as they did in the first game. On the other side of the ball, they need to take advantage of the turnover opportunities that Lock will eventually give them. Sorry, but I think we all know that will happen at some point.
With Drew Lock, do the Broncos beat the Raiders on Sunday?
This poll is closed