A springboard win or a springboard loss (or a springboard tie...?) is what awaits the Las Vegas Raiders this coming Sunday. The Silver & Black open the 2023 campaign on the road at the Denver Broncos in an AFC West matchup.
And it’s an opportune time to see the progression of the Josh McDaniels’ desert marauders. The Raiders only have to look back at this past Thursday’s season-opening clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions for a springboard win and loss. The visiting Lions rolled into Arrowhead and edged the Chiefs 21-20.
The football viewing world learned a lot about both teams and during the course of Sunday afternoon’s tilt, we’ll grasp plenty from the Raiders and Broncos. McDaniels expects as much.
“So, I go into the beginning of the season kind of like, again, as an extension of training camp, and we get to do something now that we haven’t done in a while. So, we’re going to learn a lot,” McDaniels said during his media session on Friday. “I’m excited to see those guys all go out there and compete and do their jobs. Everything won’t be perfect, there’s no question about that, opening day never is. We’re in an imperfect sport.
“So, we’ll learn as much from these games and what they’re doing and not doing as anything else we’ve done.”
A road division matchup to open the year is as good as a litmus test the Raiders could’ve gotten. It’ll give solid insight on how the new-look Silver & Black perform in Year 2 under McDaniels with several shiny new pieces — chief among them quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on offense and cornerback Marcus Peters on defense. Those two veteran players will be surrounded by other veterans and young promising talent as Las Vegas embarks on improving from a 6-11 thud campaign last season.
Denver is now helmed by a new head honcho — Sean Payton — who brought with him a new defensive boss — Vance Joseph — which brings somewhat a shroud of mystery as to what the Broncos bring to the table this season. Payton last coached in 2021 while Joseph was the Broncos head coach from 2017-18 and returned to Denver after a one-year stint coaching the Arizona Cardinals defense.
McDaniels noted there’s some familiarity with the scheme both Payton and Joseph deploy, but overall, the team can only watch so much tape before it becomes too much of a guessing game. The Raiders coach did note being able to have joint practice with other teams during the offseason helps in that regard.
“You start the game with an idea of what you might see in each phase, but at the end of the day, I think this is where the training camp practices against another club are really important. Because when you go into those, you have no idea what they’re going to do,” McDaniels said. “They could try a hundred new things against you and you’re the guinea pig. And so, really it tests your rules, it tests your discipline, tests your communication, and that’s basically what opening day turns into.”
The Raiders communication and discipline will need to be tip top within the confines of Empower Field at Mile High. Expect the crowd to be noisy and disruptive as Bronco fans are likely salivating just as much as the team to snap a six-game skid against the Raiders. Not only that, but elevation will test McDaniels and his team’s conditioning and stamina.
Las Vegas is afforded the opportunity to go on the road, at elevation, against a division foe to open the season. The result is going to set the tone for the following weeks as the Raiders have a solid four-game slate from the onset: At Denver, at the Buffalo Bills, vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers at Allegiant Stadium, and at the Los Angeles Chargers. That’s four AFC squads including two that are the West division types.
We’ll find out early what the 2023 Raiders are all about.