Broncos playing for seeding, home field in playoffs; Raiders would just like a win
The Denver Broncos aim for their 10th win of the season when they take on the Oakland Raiders tonight at 8:20 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Broncos (9-3) have won seven games overall and have already clinched the AFC West division title. The Raiders (3-9) have lost five in a row and would love nothing more than to get a win over the division champs and take some pressure off of first-year head coach Dennis Allen in the process.
When the Denver Broncos have the ball:
Denver is fifth overall in total offense (386.9 ypg) and third in scoring at 29.1 points per game. The offense has been led by quarterback Peyton Manning, who has put together a MVP-worthy first season with the Broncos despite missing all of last season. Manning is the NFL’s second-rated passer (104.6) and is averaging 292 yards passing per game with 29 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have benefitted from having No. 18 pulling the trigger. This is especially the case for Thomas, who is tied for fourth in the league with 1,114 yards receiving, is averaging 16.1 yards per catch and has eight touchdown receptions. The Broncos are only 22nd in the league in rushing (103.3 ypg) and will be without running back Willis McGahee (torn MCL) until late in the playoffs. Knowshon Moreno has grabbed hold of the starting job in McGahee’s absence, and he should find success against a Raiders’ defense that’s ranked No. 28 (130.4 ypg) when it comes to stopping the run. The Broncos have been a little sloppy with ball security this season, as they have lost 13 fumbles.
Oakland’s defense is ranked No. 28 in total defense, allowing 387 yards per game, and is dead last in scoring defense, surrendering 31.3 points per contest. They are allowing more than 130 yards rushing per game, and have allowed 129 yards or more to three different running backs, including 251 to Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin in Week 9. The Raiders haven’t fared much better against the pass, as they have given up 256.5 yards per game through the air. They have allowed 24 touchdown passes compared to eight interceptions, and have forced a total of 15 turnovers. The pass rush has been non-existent as well, with only 14 sacks, the second-fewest in the entire league.
When the Oakland Raiders have the ball:
Oakland’s offense has been largely one-dimensional this season, as injuries in the backfield and a lack of production in the running game have placed much of the burden on quarterback Carson Palmer’s arm. The Raiders are 13th in the league in total offense, but 77 percent of their total yards have come via the pass. Palmer is seventh in the league in passing yards with 3,532, and tied for second in pass attempts with 503. However, he has thrown 13 interceptions with his 20 touchdown passes, which is part of the reason why he’s No. 20 in terms of passer rating and the Raiders are 23rd in the league in scoring (19.6 ppg). Oakland is near the bottom (29th) in rushing offense, as injuries have once again caused running back Darren McFadden to miss a significant amount of time. It’s possible McFadden will be able to play tonight, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Raiders as a team are averaging less than 83 yards on the ground per game and have scored a total of three rushing touchdowns this season. The leading receiver for the Raiders is tight end Brandon Myers, as wide receivers Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey have been hampered by injuries and inconsistent production.
As good as Denver’s offense has been, the defense has more than done its part this season. The Broncos are third in total defense, giving up 308.2 yards per game, and tied for ninth in points allowed at 20.3 per contest. They are sixth against the pass and seventh against the rush, and have yielded only five rushing touchdowns all season. The Broncos have the second-most sacks in the league (38), led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Von Miller’s 15 quarterback takedowns. This unit has also picked off 14 passes and tallied four defensive touchdowns on the season.
Even though the Broncos have clinched the AFC West title, there’s still seeding and home-field advantage to play for. With Houston (11-1) and New England (9-3) facing off on Monday night, the Broncos will either gain ground on the Texans or pass the Patriots for the No. 2 seed in the AFC, provided they take care of business in Oakland. Peyton Manning and Co. had no problems with the Raiders the first time they played, a 37-6 whitewashing in Week 4, and with the problems Oakland has had running the ball, scoring points, along with its defensive issues, there’s little reason to expect a different outcome. The Raiders have allowed 34 or more points in a game seven times this season. Don’t be surprised if it’s eight after tonight.
Broncos 34, Raiders 17