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Broncos at Raiders preview: Denver looks for first AFC West win of 2022 season

There’s no better time for Russell Wilson and the Broncos offense to click than against the hated Raiders on Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers v Denver Broncos Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Raider Hater week is officially here.

For some Denver Broncos fans, that’s every week. When these two teams smash helmets, the hatred boils the closer the game gets.

And there’s some added spice for this first meeting between these two hated rivals since Josh McDaniels is the Las Vegas Raiders head coach. Not to mention the Broncos will look to keep Loss Vegas winless on the season.

Despite the fact the Raiders are 0-3, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Broncos as a +2.5-point underdog on Sunday. That’s a bit of a surprise, but the oddsmakers clearly don’t think much of Denver’s offense. Since 1989, only 35 teams have been winless in game No. 4 and a favorite of 2 or more. Those teams have gone 11-23-1 (32.4%) against the spread and 14-21 straight up. The total for Sunday’s game sits at 46. For what it’s worth, the Broncos are 1-2 against the spread and the under is 3-0 this season.

Offensive Rankings

Denver: Sixteenth in overall offense (348.0 yards per game), 12th in rushing (117.7), 18th in passing (230.3), 31st in scoring offense (14.3 points per game).

Loss Vegas: Seventeenth in overall offense (346.7 yards per game), 28th in rushing (80.0), seventh in passing (266.7), 11th in scoring offense (21.3 points per game).

Defensive Rankings

Denver: Third in overall defense (251.3 yards per game), sixth in rushing defense (81.3), third in passing defense (170.0), second in scoring defense (12 points per game).

Loss Vegas: Twenty-first in overall defense (376.3 yards per game), 16th in rushing defense (109.3), 26th in passing defense (267.0), 24th in scoring defense (25.7 points per game).

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

Let Russ cook

On the game-winning drive for the Broncos offense, we saw vintage Russell Wilson. Hopefully, that’s the catalyst to getting him and this offense clicking. It’ll help to face a bad Raiders defense, which is near the bottom of the NFL in passing defense and middling in stopping the run. Wilson will have his chances to test this Las Vegas secondary, Denver needs to take advantage of them. — Ian St. Clair

Keep the pressure on Derek Carr

Through three games Carr has thrown 6 TDs to 4 INTs, with 7 sacks taken. It’s no coincidence that 5 of those sacks and 3 of those INTs came against the Los Angeles Chargers excellent pass rush in Week 1. With Carr stuck playing behind a bad Raiders offensive line, the Broncos D-line & edge rushers have a golden opportunity to repeat the Chargers’ success by harrying Carr all day. — Taylor Kothe

More contributions from secondary options in passing game

Courtland Sutton is sporting a 27% target share through three games, but over the past two that number is 35%. He’s recorded 219 receiving yards in the last two weeks while Kendall Hinton has the second most during that time with 47. Simply put, the Broncos need more from Jerry Jeudy and Albert Okwuegbunam but could use a splash play or two from K.J. Hamler who’s been quiet to this point. I understand there have been other struggles with the offense, but Russ’ pass catchers aren’t getting much separation. The Raiders haven’t faced a defense like the Broncos, but they can put up points, so it’s unlikely Denver escapes with a win by hitting their average of 14.3 points. In order to surpass that total, the Broncos need somebody to step up and make plays downfield, outside of Sutton. — Chad Workman

Feed Pookie

Not to beat a dead horse, but get Javonte Williams involved as much as possible. A successful running attack means the offense stays on the field more, and controls the game. Williams is due for a big game, and utilizing him should lead to better offensive efficiency. — Adam Malnati

Move the chains early and often

The San Francisco 49ers are a far better defensive unit than the Las Vegas Raiders, but 10 three-and-outs are too many. Pushing the ball downfield and making statements early on (which includes capitalizing in the red zone) will set the tone and give the defense some breathing room. — Nick Burch

Make the easy plays

Too often this season, Denver has made layups look hard, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Whether it’s Russ missing some gimme passes, receivers dropping balls, or unnecessary pre-snap penalties in key moments, the Broncos offense has made it harder on themselves. You don’t need to play hero ball in the fourth quarter if you’re doing the little stuff right in the first three. Make the easy completions, catch the gosh darn football, and make like Henry VIII and execute, execute, execute. — Jeff Essary

What are your keys to Sunday’s game?