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Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos Preview and Prediction

Matt McGloin

Matt McGloin

Last week’s 33-25 win against Indianapolis was bittersweet for Oakland. Yes, the team won its 12th game of the season to remain on top of the AFC West, but it came at a high cost.

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Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr broke his fibula in the fourth quarter and is unlikely to play again this season. Now backup Matt McGloin will look to guide the Raiders to their first division title since 2002 as they travel to Denver to take on the Broncos in the regular-season finale.

The Broncos have quarterback problems of their own as Trevor Siemian had his worst performance in last week’s loss at Kansas City. While Siemian will start, rookie Paxton Lynch is expected to see playing time as well with Denver already eliminated from playoff contention.

Oakland is going for the season sweep, following a 30-20 home win over the Broncos in Week 9. The Raiders lead the all-time series 61-49-2.

Oakland at Denver

Kickoff: Sunday, Jan. 1 at 4:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Denver -1.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Trevor Siemian

Many expected the Broncos to bench Siemian after the Broncos were eliminated by the Chiefs last Sunday, but that isn’t the case. Siemian completed just 17 of 43 attempts (season-low 39.5 percent) for 183 yards and an interception. His season-worst 43.1 passer rating was one of many lowlights in the 33-10 beatdown.

Sunday isn’t just an opportunity to prevent Oakland from winning the AFC West, but it also serves as Siemian’s last chance to impress the coaching staff and front office heading into the offseason. There has been speculation that Denver could look to upgrade the quarterback position either through the draft, free agency or via a trade, and there’s also Paxton Lynch, the team’s first-round pick this year. Siemian needs to put forth his best effort or else he could find himself as odd man out in the Broncos’ quarterback plans.

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2. Raiders’ ground game

With Derek Carr out for the season, Oakland will need even more from its running backs. While the Raiders don’t have a true workhorse, they have been able to put together an effective running attack.

Oakland is fifth in the NFL In rushing offense at 124.3 yards per game. Latavius Murray leads the way with 777 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he’s not the only option to carry the ball. He did have 114 yards and three touchdowns on the ground against Denver in the first meeting in Week 9.

Last week against Indianapolis, DeAndre Washington was the top ground-gainer with 99 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, while Jalen Richard chipped in 66 yards on just six carries. The Broncos have had issues against the run all season, as they rank 29th in the league (135.2 ypg) in that department and were gashed for a season-high 238 last week against the Chiefs.

It doesn’t matter who gets the ball, but the Raiders need to maintain their success on the ground against Denver to not only give them the best chance to win the AFC West, but to set them up for a deep run in the playoffs, especially with Carr sidelined.

3. Broncos’ Defense

Not to make excuses, but in last week’s 33-10 blowout loss to Kansas City, Denver’s defense was without safety T.J. Ward and linebacker Brandon Marshall, and it showed. The Broncos gave up a season-high 33 points and 484 yards on Christmas night.

While Marshall (hamstring) may play on Sunday, the outlook doesn’t look as promising for Ward, who is in the league’s concussion protocol. Denver already knows it will be without linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who is slated to undergo back surgery, and cornerback Kayvon Webster, who was put on injured reserve on Wednesday because of a concussion he suffered last week.

Final Analysis

Since starting the season 7-3, the Broncos have gone 1-4 and have seen their chance to defend last season’s Super Bowl go up in smoke. While Denver won’t qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2010, it can still finish the season with a winning record by beating Oakland.

NFL Power Rankings: Broncos

The Raiders have won eight of their last nine games, but must now finish the season without quarterback Derek Carr. The good news is Matt McGloin has starting experience, but he’s just 1-5 in his career in that role.

Denver has limited starting quarterbacks to a 69.5 passer rating, which is the lowest in the NFL. Despite injuries to several key players, the Broncos should be able to take care of business at home and end their season on a winning note.

Prediction: Broncos 24, Raiders 21

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.