The Denver Broncos kick off their season opener on Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders, but what matchups should fans keep their eyes on?

Denver Broncos key matchups to watch vs. Las Vegas Raiders

The Broncos have struggled to beat the Raiders for six consecutive games, but Sunday’s season opener gives them a chance to change the narrative. If Denver will beat Vegas, they’ll have to excel and counter these specific matchups.

Denver Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain eager for third matchup vs. Davante Adams

Patrick Surtain vs. Davante Adams is the main event if Sunday’s season opener was a fight card. Both players are in the elite category of their positions heading into the 2023 NFL season.

In Surtain’s first matchup against Adams, he held him to 46 yards on four receptions while covering him. In the second half, the Raiders began to motion Adams away from an outside one-on-one matchup, and he saw success attacking the middle of the field.

Adams got the best of Surtain in the second matchup last season that saw the Raiders receiver haul in a game-winning touchdown catch in overtime in walk-off fashion.

Both players strongly respect each other, but Sunday’s trilogy will be under the microscope for anybody who loves football.

With Jimmy Garoppolo taking the reigns as the Raiders quarterback, it will be interesting to see what type of chemistry he’s built with Adams throughout the offseason.

It wouldn’t be a shock if Josh McDaniels moved Adams across various formations to reduce isolated one-on-one matchups between the two, similar to what he did in that second game last season.

Can the Broncos defense find a way to slow down Josh Jacobs?

Josh Jacobs has been a boogeyman for the Broncos defense for the last six games the two teams have played. Averaging nearly 4.7 yards per carry and 103 yards per game against Denver, the trend has to stop at some point.

What makes Jacobs so lethal is how fast, athletic, and powerful he is. In nearly every game against the Broncos, he has repeatedly broken off a massive run after contact.

These plays have typically come on a 2nd down, sometimes 3rd and short, which has deflated the defense during key drives.

It’s going to require every Bronco on defense to rally to the football, making first contact and holding on where the rest of the defense can group tackle.

Mike Purcell being ready to go for Week 1 is a massive boost for Denver’s defensive line that features D.J. Jones and Zach Allen. Randy Gregory and Jonathon Cooper are expected to be the starters at outside linebacker, while Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton return as the team’s inside linebackers.

Maintaining gap integrity on the inside is crucial, but holding contain is equally important for Denver.

“We wouldn’t tailor our plan—our plan defensively is: Here are the key players,” Broncos head coach Sean Payton said earlier in the week. “He certainly is one of the more dominant running backs in the NFL, so that’s how we’ll approach the game.”

How will Sean Payton mitigate the risk of Maxx Crosby and his impact off the edge?

Maxx Crosby hurt the Broncos’ offensive production or hopes last season in two matchups. In Week 4, Crosby came up with two sacks in their first win against Denver.

Crosby added another two sacks in their second matchup, resulting in another Raiders win. While much of the focus has been on the Raiders offense and how certain players match up against the Broncos’ defense, Crosby has been a one-man wrecking crew.

He has 11.5 sacks in the last seven games combined against the Broncos, and Denver hasn’t found an answer to counteract him.

This is where the renovated offensive line has to come into play on Sunday. Garett Bolles and Mike McGlinchey will have their hands full against Crosby, but they have to find a way to mitigate the risk Crosby poses.

There will be times when Bolles or McGlinchey will need to win their one-on-one matchups against him in pass rush situations, but Broncos head coach Sean Payton could utilize extra help by placing Chris Manhertz next to one of them in key rush moments on Sunday.

Manhertz’s size and athleticism are two traits that can help assist either Bolles or McGlinchey. If that becomes the focus, the protection on the opposite side of where Crosby is attacking has to hold up.

The Raiders have loved to blitz defenders from the nickel or corner spot opposite of Crosby in the past. Either the extra blitzers get home or they try to force opposing quarterbacks into moving Crosby’s way which leads to more trouble.

Sunday’s game is a huge test for Payton and the Broncos, and Crosby will be one player they have to find an answer for if they hope to win.


Sunday’s game is set for a 2:25pm kick off on CBS. The Broncos are currently -3.5 favorites at most sports books.

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