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Raiders-Broncos Week 1: Area of Concern

Denver eager to snap 6-game skid to Silver & Black

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos
Will the addition of Sean Payton at head coach be the piece that finally gets the Denver Broncos to snap a six-game losing skid to the Las Vegas Raiders?
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are hellbent on avoiding unlucky No. 7 when it comes to the Las Vegas Raiders. In the battle of the AFC West foes, it’s the Silver & Black that holds the advantage over the horseman in the most recent string of games.

Six straight victories by the Raiders over the Broncos, in fact, and Denver doesn’t want to make that skid seven — at home in the regular season opener this Sunday, no less. One would have to go back to the 1992 to 1994 stretch to find a similar six-game streak that favored the Silver & Black.

Alex Singleton, Denver’s linebacker and leading tackler last season (163 total, 101 solo), made no bone about what the regular season home opener means for the Broncos.

“We’re starting with an AFC West opponent and we’re at home,” Singleton said during his media session. “To start what we want to show — we’ve been talking about last year, coming into this, the offseason, everything else — what better way to start it than to have the Raiders come into town?”

New head coach Sean Payton didn’t mince words on what’ll take for Denver to topple Las Vegas Week 1. He name dropped two Raiders — running back Josh Jacobs and edge rusher Maxx Crosby — as two examples of must-stops in order for the Broncos to gallop to victory. And that’s the biggest area of concern for Las Vegas: Countering Denver’s game plan.

Not Josh-ing You

In the last six games between the pair of AFC West teams, it’s the Raiders — specifically Jacobs — who has done the galloping, scratch that, trampling.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Despite the Broncos best efforts to stop or slow down Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, center, the tailback has galloped for 721 yards rushing and scored nine touchdowns against Denver.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In the seven career gamers Jacobs has played against the Broncos, the Raiders haven’t lost. And that one defeat was a 16-15 loss back in Week 17 of the 2019 season — the last year in Oakland — where Jacobs wasn’t active. In those victories, Jacobs played an integral role running for 721 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 15 passes for 158 yards.

Payton didn’t hide the respect he has for Las Vegas’ bell cow running back during his media conference call as Denver preps for the Raiders.

“He certainly is one of the more dominant running backs in the NFL, so that’s how we’ll approach the game,” Payton said.

Payton added Jacobs’ absence during the Raiders offseason program and lack of preseason snaps or carries will do little to sway the Broncos from preparing to defend the last year’s rushing leader. Singleton, arguably, has the best perspective on this item.

“He could be the freshest on the field on Sunday,” Singleton said of Jacobs. “We’re ready for that, we’re excited for that.”

Maxx-imum Overdrive

Crosby’s eight career games against Denver is just as impressive as Jacobs’ exploits. The Raiders’ edge rusher has 11.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two pass deflections, and 15 quarterback hits in those contests. That’s nearly 31 percent of Crosby's career total of 37.5 sacks coming against one team.

As with Jacobs, Payton was effusive of the praise for the Raiders elite defender.

“He’s real flexible; he’s a tremendous worker, athletic,” Payton said. “He’s got one of those motors that doesn’t stop and he can get to your edge quick. But his ability to bend and then his stamina are things that stand out.”

Expect the Broncos to do everything they can to try and zap Crosby of that stamina and attempt to stall his non-stop motor. Be it running the ball right at him — Crosby showcased his improved run stopping ability last season — chipping him on passing downs or outright double teams, if Denver wants success on offense it’ll need to keep Crosby at bay and quarterback Russell Wilson upright and out of harms way.

That’ll be easier said than done.

Quote of Note:

“We look at them as divisional games. I think there are rivalries in college football and arch-rivalries. I was asked that question a lot relative to Atlanta and New Orleans. Look, divisional games are important. The first goal was to find a way to win your division. You play your divisional opponents twice. I can’t speak for rivalries. I just think that exists a little more in the college game. I think division games are important, yes.” —Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton on rivalry games in the NFL