Oakland Raiders Opponent Preview: The Denver Broncos

October 11, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) is tackled by Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby (29) during the first quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
October 11, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) is tackled by Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby (29) during the first quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Here is everything you need to know about the Oakland Raiders Week 17 Opponent the Denver Broncos.

The final week of the regular season is upon us. Sunday afternoon will feature the Oakland Raiders traveling to Mile High for a crucial matchup against the Denver Broncos. Whilst the Broncos are out of postseason contention, the past week for both teams has offered up several interesting scenarios. Not only in terms of how the game will play out, but how both teams have viewed the game in the build up.

For the Raiders, a victory will mean an AFC West Crown for the first time since 2001. More importantly, sweeping the Broncos on the year will all but lock-up a first round bye and home-field advantage for the Raiders in the playoffs. This will be crucial for two reasons. First, the extra week off will give now starting quarterback Matt McGloin time to prepare properly for the divisional round if that’s where the Raiders find themselves. Secondly, with a small (prayers sent and fingers crossed) glimmer of hope that Derek could (maybe, possibly?) return by Super Bowl Sunday, a first round bye gives Oakland once less obstacle to hurdle until Carr may be able to return.

For Denver, Week 17’s matchup provides two exciting opportunities. Firstly, revenge. With Oakland taking it to Denver in primetime earlier this season, the Broncos will be looking to end the season on a high note. Nothing would give them more pleasure than to get one back on Oakland, while simultaneously preventing them from winning the division. Especially since Oakland’s o-line ran roughshod over Denver’s defensive in front of the nation.

Secondly, the game will serve as the team’s litmus test for quarterback next season. The Broncos have confirmed that both Siemian and Paxton Lynch will play on Sunday. Siemian has been a pleasant surprise for Denver this season. The late round quarterback has executed well, and to be honest, it makes you wonder if the Broncos would have drafted Lynch if they knew how good Siemian was actually going to be.

Denver will be looking to bounce back from an embarrassing defeat in Kansas City last week (33-10). Furthermore, with the Chiefs playing a Chargers team that just handed the Browns their first win of the season, Raider fans shouldn’t expect a Chargers upset to save the Silver and Black this week. Winning is the name of the game.

As always though, let’s start by examining Denver’s coaching staff:

Head Coach: Gary Kubiak

Offensive Coordinator: Rick Denison

Defensive Coordinator: Wade Phillips

Special Teams Coordinator: Joe DeCamillis

Denver’s coaching staff is a good one. Coming fresh off their Super Bowl victory last year, the staff has bolstered some already strong resumes. Gary Kubiak served as Broncos GM John Elway’s backup for many years, and has four rings total. Wade Phillips was named as 2015’s NFL assistant coach of the year and has the affection and admiration of Denver’s defense.

This year has certainly been a disappointment for them however. Not being able to make the playoffs and even have a shot to defend their crown is bitterly disappointing for Denver, even without Peyton Manning.

Speaking of, let’s take a look at Denver’s current offense in their first post-Manning season:

QB: Trevor Siemian

RB: Devontae Booker

WR: Demaryius Thomas

WR: Emmanuel Sanders

TE: Virgil Green

LT: Russell Okung

LG: Max Garcia

C: Matt Paradis

RG: Michael Schofield

RT: Donald Stephenson

As aforementioned, Trevor Siemian has been a nice surprise for Denver this year. Originally viewed as a stop-gap until Lynch was ready (who will also play Sunday at some point), Siemian has thrown for over 3,000 yards with 16 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. While the TD:INT ratio isn’t incredible, Siemian has been lauded for his poise in the pocket and surprising accuracy.

One reason why Siemian receives high praise despite those numbers, is because of the shaky play of others around him. After a paltry showing by Denver’s offense against New England two weeks ago, in which the Broncos managed just 58 yards rushing on 17 (combined attempts) as well as allowing 4 sacks, it was evident Denver’s offense was in the doldrums.

The Broncos defense managed to keep Brady out of the end zone, and held New England to just 16 points. But all the Broncos offense could manage was a single field goal. (Siemian himself threw for just under 300 yards, converting on 25/40 attempts).

In fact, reports emerged after the game that Kubiak had to break up a fight in the locker room between the offense and the defense, specifically Russell Okung and Aqib Talib. So far this season, the Broncos rank 27th in total offense, 20th in passing, 28th in rushing and 29th in rushing. It’s clear that something is lacking on the offensive side of the ball.

Whilst Elway and Kubiak might be hoping inserting Lynch may provide a spark, Denver’s issue is not at quarterback. It’s subpar offensive line play along with explosiveness out of the backfield has led to a situation in which too much is put on the shoulder of young Trevor Siemian, regardless of the admiration he deserves.

That said, there are some on the offense who aren’t letting the whole team down, regardless how Aqib Talib may have felt recently. The perennially entertaining Demaryius Thomas has just notched a 1,000 yard receiving season to the tune of 5 touchdowns and will no doubt be Siemian’s go to guy. On the other side, Sanders has also put up roughly the exact same stat line (1,000 yards 5 ads) with only difference being 3 less receptions.

Denver’s receivers have done their best to help out Siemian this year so far, but with a weak offensive line in front of him and a running back (Booker) that has notched out just over 500 yards and a handful of touchdowns, it hasn’t been easy. Denver’s opponents have mostly known what’s coming, knowing where to hit hem hard and exploiting mismatches in the trenches. It’s mostly why earlier this season Ken Norton Jr’s men were able to force so many consecutive three and outs earlier this season.

Consider as well that Denver’s tight ends Virgil Green (limited) and A.J. Derby (did not practice) find themselves on the injury report, the pressure will be on Denver’s QB whether it’s Siemian or Lynch.

Now let’s examine the defense:

DE: Derek Wolfe

NT: Sylvester Williams

DE: Jared Crick

OLB: Von Miller

ILB: Brandon Marhsall

ILB: Todd Davis

OLB: Demarcus Ware

CB: Aqib Talib

FS: Darian Stewart

SS: T.J. Ward

CB: Chris Harris Jr.

No doubt the strength of this Denver Broncos’ outfit is the defense. Last year, they were the standouts in their Super Bowl 50 victory over the Panthers. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Von Miller is the big threat against the Raiders this week. He notched a sack in their last matchup and will be chomping at the bit to get after McGloin.

McGloin must be well studied and prepared coming into this week. The Defensive Player of the Year award will most likely come down to Miller and Mack, the former sitting at 13.5 sacks on the year to Mack’s 11. That said, Miller hasn’t notched a sack in his last three games.

Other concerns linger for the Broncos as well. Last week’s drumming at the hands of the Chiefs — to the tune of 33-10 — had to have stung. More so because the Broncos are still reeling from a physical matchup. Brandon Marshall and Sylvester Williams were both limited in practice, with T.J. Ward, Derek Wolfe and Demarcus Ware all being ruled out. Chances are, there will be a few starting 11 players in their pajamas come Sunday.

Statistically, Denver’s defense has held their own so far this season. They rank 6th overall, 1st in passing…yet 29th in rushing. (Ring any bells?). They rank roughly in the middle of the league for red zone defense and takeaways as well.

Denver’s plan on defense will most likely be a product of what they expect the Raiders gameplay to be. Which is to say, exactly what it was last time. Earlier this season, the Raiders ran all over them, with Murray bulldozing his way to 3 touchdowns. The Raiders offense played the Broncos defense like a fiddle. Even Cris Collinsworth noted in the broadcast booth how rare it was to see that kind of physical dominance from a team up front.

With Matt McGloin under center, the Raiders gameplan on offense will be exactly the same. Minimize the amount of weight put on McGloin’s shoulders, and run the rock down Denver’s throat. The Broncos will more than likely know this will be coming, so should be working on run defense all.week.long. Conversely, the Raiders have to take advantage of both Denver’s offensive line, and Lynch’s inexperience when he inevitably comes in.

With most pundits predicting a tight game, special teams could well be crucial. Last week, Denver ran a fake field goal against the Chiefs, drawing derision when it failed. Even more so later on when their special teams unit muffed a punt, and fumbled a kickoff return (having fumbled two kickoffs the week prior in New England). Despite the fake last week, McManus nailed a 52-yarder just prior, and given the high altitude in Denver, he’s always a threat to knock it through.

Like always though, we’ll just have to wait and see. Go Raiders.

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