What challenges do the Las Vegas Raiders pose to Drew Lock and the Denver Broncos?

Oct 17, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs (39) tackles Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams (33) in the first half at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Last week’s devastating loss to the Cincinnati Bengals has put a damper on the 7-7 Denver Broncos’ playoff hopes, but those hopes aren’t dead yet.

On Sunday, they face the similarly placed 7-6 Las Vegas Raiders for the second time this season. They went into their bye week with a 5-2 record but have since lost six of their last eight games. Because of the tiebreaker rules, the Raiders currently sit ahead of the Broncos in third place in the AFC West.

Denver goes into Sunday’s game as 1.5 point favorites in what is sure to be a close game.

Here’s what the Broncos can expect to face from the Raiders in Week 16.

Raiders on Offense

The Raiders are currently the 10th-best offense, in terms of overall yardage, but will have a tough test this week against the Broncos’ fourth-best defense.

Derek Carr has had a peculiar season. While he currently has the second-most passing yards in the NFL, with 4,162, he only has 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has been sacked 31 times, tying him for the sixth-most in the league.

The last time these teams faced one another, the Broncos got to Carr twice, and last week they were able to get to Joe Burrow three times. There’s no reason to think they can’t hit those numbers again this week.

The Raiders suffered a big blow with the loss of Henry Ruggs earlier in the season. Since his release, their offense has declined dramatically. They’ve turned to Hunter Renfrow as their No. 1 wide receiver. While his touchdown numbers have remained low, he currently has 909 yards and is on track to go over 1000 on the season.

In their Week 6 matchup, both Kenyan Drake and Josh Jacobs managed to rush in touchdowns, although they combined for less than 100 yards. The Broncos have since acquired linebacker Kenny Young, a much improved inside linebacker than the then-starter Alexander Johnson.

Raiders on Defense

The Raiders’ defense sits at No. 17 in total yards allowed, while the Broncos’ offense finds itself in a similar range, at No. 18.

Drew Lock dramatically increases the Broncos’ ceiling in terms of offense, but he also plays a much riskier style of football. Since training camp, the argument has been that while Lock has higher highs, he also has lower lows with an increased likelihood of turnovers.

However, this game might be the perfect opportunity for Lock as Las Vegas has the least interceptions in the league this season, with only five. There isn’t a single Raider defender that has more than one on the season.

The Raiders also have a depleted secondary, having dealt with a multitude of injuries. To add insult to injury, cornerback Nate Hobbs is currently on the COVID-19 list and is unlikely to play this week.

Jerry Jeudy has zero touchdowns on the season, and last week he didn’t have a single reception. With Lock’s big playmaking ability and a pitiful Raiders’ passing defense, it’s possible he can finally have that breakout game Broncos Country has been waiting to see.

Denver’s game scheme has pivoted to a heavy focus on the run. When these teams last met, Teddy Bridgewater attempted 49 passes, while Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams only rushed for a combined 20 times. With the Raiders’ rushing defense in the league’s bottom tier, expect that formula to change for this battle, as Gordon and Williams run roughshod over the Raiders.
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