Teams that win have a lot more meaningful games than teams that don’t. A statement that hasn’t applied to the Raiders much as they head to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.
While the playoffs are a foregone conclusion for this 12-3 club, there is still the business of trying to make their road a bit smoother in the playoffs. That starts Sunday when they head to Denver to face the rival Broncos.
When these two teams met up in week nine of the season, they were tied atop the AFC West. Since then they’ve gone in opposite directions. The Raiders have won 5 of 6 to stay atop the division while the Broncos have lost 4 of 6 and are out of playoff contention.
Even still, the Raiders have the Chiefs right behind him and if they slip in the finale, they will fail to take the division. Winning the division would mean a top seed, a first round bye, and home field advantage in the second round. Losing it would mean hitting the road to Houston in the wildcard round.
That task was made considerably more arduous with the loss of Derek Carr to a broken fibula late in their week 16 win over the Colts.
For that reason, a lot of stats and standings can be thrown out the window. Carr is a legit MVP candidate, putting the Raiders on his back all season long.
What can we expect from Matt McGloin? It’s hard to say exactly. He has a lot of the same traits as Carr — grit, fearlessness, confidence, instincts -- but without Carr’s arm strength and developed chemistry with the first team offense.
McGloin will be facing a top ranked Broncos pass defense missing their starting safety TJ Ward, reserve corner Kayvon Webster, starting defensive end Derek Wolfe, and pass rusher DeMarcus Ware.
Even with those players missing, they have plenty of playmakers on the defense who could make the passing game a rough go. But the Raiders may not be looking to the aerial attack to beat the Broncos anyway.
This season the Raiders have the 4th best rushing attack in the league. That attack was on full display in the team’s dominating 30-20 win over the Broncos in their first meeting for a season best 218 yards on the ground. Lest you think that was a one-off thing, the Raiders ran for 210 yards just last week in their win over the Colts.
It wasn’t just the Raiders rush offense that beat the Broncos, it was their run defense which held the Broncos to just 33 yards on the ground. A run defense that now has it’s best pass rushing defense end Mario Edwards Jr having come off of injured reserve and returned to the lineup as of last week.
Again, this wasn’t an anomaly. The Broncos haven’t broken the century mark on the ground the past three weeks, averaging 46 yards per game in their current three-game losing streak which ousted them from the playoff race.
Even if Carr were playing in this game, it would be a game decided on the ground. The Broncos will be running a bit of a QB carousel of their own. They will be starting Trevor Siemian, but rookie Paxton Lynch will receive considerable playing time as well and they hope to ready him for a future QB competition.
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Location: Sports Authority Field, Denver CO
Game time: Sunday, January 1, 1:25 pm Pacific (4:25 pm ET)
TV channel: CBS (Do I get the game?)
Online streaming: NFL Game Pass (Live audio, replay after it's over)
Radio: 95.7 The Game, 98.5 KFOX (Greg Papa, Tom Flores) | Full listings
Odds: Broncos are 2-point favorites
Match-up history: Raiders lead series 61-49-2 (all time), Raiders have won two straight
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Enemy blog: Mile High Report
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