clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Broncos vs. Raiders: 5 storylines to watch in the season opener

I give you five storylines to watch in their week one season opener vs. the Las Vegas Raiders.

Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

We are just days away from the Denver Broncos season opener vs. their hated division rivals the Las Vegas Raiders. This will be head coach Sean Payton’s first regular season game as a member of the Broncos and he will look to end the losing streak the team currently has against the Raiders.

In this one, we have multiple key matchups and players to watch that will be critical to the outcome of the game. So, here are the five storylines to watch during the Denver Broncos week one matchup vs. their division rival Las Vegas Raiders.

1. Quarterback Russell Wilson

This is an obvious one.

All eyes will be on the Broncos quarterback in this one and likely every game moving forward. He was acquired in a historic trade last season and then went on to have his worst career year with the Broncos last season. Now, he is in Sean Payton’s offense, has lost reportedly about 15 pounds, and hopefully will have a bounce-back season for the team this year.

How he plays in this one will control the narrative moving forward. We need to see Wilson play mistake-free football, look comfortable in the pocket, use his legs effectively and most importantly, put some points up on the board. If he struggles and/or the Broncos lose this game, fans and media will hit the panic button once again.

Personally, I thought Wilson looked improved during the preseason. The numbers and stat line do not show huge growth, but he looked more comfortable, made plays with his legs, and was throwing accurate passes. Now, with Sean Payton opening up the offense more, hopefully, we see Wilson find the open receiver, get the ball out quickly, and silence all the doubters and haters.

2. Running back Javonte Williams

Last year, running back Javonte Williams tore multiple ligaments in his knee against the Raiders that ended up ending his season and put his future in doubt. However, the Broncos back defied the odds and was back on the field for OTA’s, made it through the offseason program without issues, made it through camp without any setbacks or limitations, and even played in their second preseason game. While he might not be fully 100% back to his former self, he is close to 100% and is ready to prove himself on the field in this one.

He is listed as the Broncos starting back in this one but how much he plays remains up in the air. The team did sign veteran back Samaje Perine this offseason and he is expected to split carries with him throughout the year. Payton likes to utilize multiple backs anyways and will likely also use rookie Jaleel McLaughlin as well. So, all three backs figure to get snaps and touches in this one, but how Javonte Williams looks during this game will be a storyline after the game concludes.

Williams has looked like his normal self throughout the offseason and during the preseason, so, I do not see why we will see anything less in this one. I also feel like we will see a little bit more of him than we think. This is a little bit of a revenge game for him so it would be poetic to see him get into the end zone a few times during this game.

3. Broncos offensive line and blocking specialists

This offseason, Sean Payton and the Broncos put an emphasis on improving their offensive line and getting some blocking specialists on their roster. They gave right tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Ben Powers big contracts while signing block specialist Chris Manhertz and lead blocking fullback Michael Burton to contracts. Payton wants to win in the trenches and be maulers in the run game.

With the likely emphasis on the run game, we should see all these players be factors in this game. Ideally, we see the Broncos blockers control the trenches and their run game proves to be very effective against this weak on paper Raiders defense.

The pass blocking is a bigger concern in my opinion. We have seen this unit struggle at times during the preseason with this and now have Maxx Crosby, Chandler Jones(maybe), and rookie first-round pick Tyree Wilson coming off the edge in this one. The Broncos blockers will need to keep these pass rushers away from quarterback Russell Wilson and allow him to either escape the pocket or make plays down the field. If they struggle with pass blocking or blocking in general, it could be a long afternoon for the Broncos offense.

4. Stopping running back Josh Jacobs

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs has been an issue for the Broncos for a few years now and he is coming off a career year for the Raiders. So, slowing him down in this one will be key for the Broncos defense.

In his first meeting with the Broncos last year, Jacobs rushed the ball 28 times for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns and he also had 5 receptions for 31 yards. In their second meeting, Jacobs did not find the end zone, but he rushed the ball 24 times for 109 yards with another 51 yards added on 3 receptions. Throughout his career, he has rushed the ball 154 times for 721 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns. So, as you can see, he has been an issue for them throughout his career with the Raiders.

This year, however, he is coming off an entire missed offseason where he held out and missed the entire offseason, the entirety of training camp, and the preseason. He recently rejoined the team, but it will be hard to imagine that he will be completely ready for a full workload come week one. So, the Broncos potentially have that going in their favor.

We will need to see Zach Allen, D.J. Jones, Josey Jewell, Alex Singleton, and the rest of the Broncos front seven limit the Raiders' run game and let Jimmy G. beat them through the air.

5. Patrick Surtain II vs. Davante Adams

In this game, you arguably have the top cornerback in the league matching up against one of the top receivers in the game. Unfortunately, Adams ended up winning the battle overall last year, but Surtain is ready for the challenge once again this year.

“You always want to go against the best,’’ Surtain said. “As a competitor, you always want to line up and put in the work … [Adams] is one of the best. When tough things happen, and last year those games were tough, all you can do is do what you need to do to correct it, get better. That’s always going to be my mindset.’’

In his matchup vs. the Broncos last season, Adams caught 9 balls for 101 yards, and in the second matchup, Adams hauled in 7 receptions for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game-winning touchdown. So, he was a problem for the Broncos defense and Surtain last season, but both will look to do better this season.

This year, we have a new defensive coordinator in Vance Joseph, and Surtain has had a full offseason under his belt to improve, watch the film, and work on doing better against Adams in the future. Also working in the Broncos favor is the team going from quarterback Derek Carr to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. On paper, this is a clear downgrade at quarterback and this same Broncos defense had success against Jimmy G. last year on a better 49ers team. So, hopefully, the Raiders poor decision-making at quarterback come back to bite them this year,

At the end of the day, this will be one of the more crucial battles in the game that may end up deciding who wins and who leaves week one with a 0-1 record.