The Raiders will wrap up their 2019 campaign Sunday afternoon in Denver. This game is crucial to Oakland’s slim playoff hopes, and anything short of a win ends their season.
Teams: Oakland Raiders (7-8) @ Denver Broncos (6-9)
Time: 1:25 PM PT
Venue: Empower Field at Mile High
TV/Radio: CBS, Raiders Radio Network
Raiders Season on the line
While it is incredibly unlikely we see the Silver and Black in the playoffs this year, the chance still exists, and it gets much more interesting with a Raiders win on Sunday. Five things had to go right last week for Oakland to even be in this position, and they all did. If the team can take care of business in Week 17, and get some help from Houston, Indianapolis, and Baltimore, the Raiders will grab a wild-card spot at 8-8. Before we can start looking for help from other teams though, the Raiders need to win a game of their own.
Broncos improved play under Drew Lock
The Broncos started this season a lowly 3-8. Since Drew Lock took over at quarterback, the rookie has led his team to three wins in their last four games and Denver has a chance to finish 7-9, much better than what anybody expected a month ago. Lock is putting up solid rookie numbers, with a 64.8% completion percentage, an 89.4 rating, and 843 passing yards along with six touchdowns and three interceptions. Lock has been solid, and the team has looked much better overall since he took over, including a 38-24 win in Houston, which wasn’t as close as the score suggests. With help from their first year signal-caller, the Broncos look much better than the team Oakland beat in week one.
Josh Jacobs unlikely to play
This is a very tough one for the Raiders. Jacobs has missed two of the last three games, and according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, he’s unlikely to play Sunday. We all know of the running back’s lingering shoulder injury, but on Christmas morning, the rookie underwent surgery to treat a skin infection. That is one terrible way to spend a holiday, and it’s likely playing a factor in keeping Jacobs off the field this Sunday.
On the bright side, DeAndre Washington played well as the lead back last Sunday, and it makes a lot of sense to rest the rookie. He is the future of the Raiders offense, and there’s little logic behind risking his future health for Oakland’s slim playoff hopes.
Run the ball well
This will be tougher if Jacobs does not play, but it’s still very possible due to Denver’s weak run defense. The Broncos give up an average of 112.4 rushing yards per game, and the Raiders running-game has been their strong suit all season.
Even if Jacobs doesn’t play, Oakland should be in good hands. As I mentioned earlier, Washington looked good last week, rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders beat Denver in Week 1 by establishing a running game, which opened up play-action looks for Carr down the field. A dominant running game Sunday can help control the tempo of the game, keep Drew Lock off the field, and it limits the quarterback’s potential for mistakes in this cold-weather game. Establishing the run will be a key factor to win this game.
Control the Trenches
Another big reason for the Raiders victory over Denver in Week 1 was their ability to control the line of scrimmage. Carr didn’t get touched the whole night, and Oakland was able to get to then-starter Joe Flacco multiple times. It will be harder for Oakland this time around without tackle Trent Brown, but I still expect them to hold their own against Denver’s pass rush.
On the other hand, the Broncos offensive line is not intimidating at all. They give up an average of 2.6 sacks per game. The Raiders defensive line has been on an uptick as the season has progressed, and I expect players like Maxx Crosby, Maurice Hurst, and Benson Mayowa to all get to the quarterback on Sunday.
Injuries, as of Friday
Did not practice: Richie Incognito, G (doubtful), Josh Jacobs, RB (Doubtful)
Limited Practice: Tyrell Williams, WR
Full Participation: Rodney Hudson, C, Gabe Jackson, G, Lamarcus Joyner, S, Trayvon Mullen, CB
DNP: Ja’Wuan James, T (out), Ron Leary, G (out), Elijah Wilkinson, T (out)
FP: Dre’Mont James, DE, Joe Jones, ILB, Will Parks, S, Tim Patrick, WR, Mike Purcell, NT, Malik Reed, OLB, DeMarcus Walker, DE
Raiders fans have had so little meaningful football to watch this decade, and this Sunday will be a treat. Kick back, relax, and if everything goes right, the Raiders may find themselves in the playoffs for the second time this decade.
I expect a victory from the Raiders to close out the regular season. I think a good run game sets the tone. The Raiders don’t have to rely on Carr as much, and DeAndre Washington has a great game. The run game opens up a few deep shots for Carr, and the Raiders are able to win in Denver for the first time since 2015.
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