While the Las Vegas Raiders are roughly a field goal favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook in Week 18, this matchup between the Raiders and Denver Broncos is more about building momentum heading into next season. Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs so the focus for this week’s key matchups is on the Silver and Black’s young players.
Tyree Wilson vs. Quinn Meinerz
Nobody on the Raiders’ roster could use a strong performance to finish the season more than Tyree Wilson. He’s strung together a few quality reps but ultimately, has been more bad than good.
Las Vegas’ coaching staff has started moving Wilson around recently, trying to find his optimal position, and he’s been taking more snaps inside as a defensive tackle on passing downs. That has helped increase the No. 7 overall pick’s production as he racked up 11 pressures in Weeks 14, 15 and 16 combined, per Pro Football Focus, compared to just nine in the 13 other games.
Assuming Wilson continues to play inside more, he should draw a handful of reps against third-year pro, Quinn Meinerz.
Meinerz has been solid in pass protection this season with just 22 pressures surrendered or about 1.4 per game. He’s also only given up two sacks and both came game in one contest two weeks ago against the New England Patriots.
So, while this will be a tough matchup for Wilson, a strong performance should give him the confidence boost he needs heading into year two.
Dylan Parham vs. Zach Allen
Moving onto Las Vegas’ top pick in 2022, Dylan Parham has shown tremendous growth as a pass blocker this season. As a rookie, he surrendered 55 pressures (six sacks) and posted a PFF grade of 48.8 in that department. But he’s managed to cut the former in half—26 pressures, one sack—and the latter has improved by about 12 points (60.2), just above the baseline for PFF.
However, Parham will be tested this weekend as Zach Allen has been one of the most productive interior pass-rushers on the campaign. Allen’s 57 pressures are the seventh-most at his position and he has a solid win rate at 11.5 percent. His five sacks are nothing to scoff at either.
That makes for an interesting one-on-one battle in the passing game, but the Bronco has a slight advantage regarding the rushing attack.
Parham has had a slight decrease when it comes to run-blocking per PFF’s grading system. He earned a 66.9 mark as a rookie but is sitting at 59.8 in year two. Also, the Raiders are averaging about a yard less per carry when running between the left A- and B-gaps.
Granted, that’s not entirely the second-year pro’s fault as he has taken snaps at other positions. But he’s primarily manned the left guard spot, and the combination of his declining grade and the team’s decrease in efficiency can be correlated.
Meanwhile, Allen ranks 23rd among defensive tackles with a PFF run defense grade of 67.4 due in part to 29 defensive stops that are tied for the eighth-most.
Denver does move the five-year veteran around on the defensive line so if Parham is having success, the matchups between these two could end up being limited. However, that would be a win for the latter that should help him build momentum heading into his third season.
Zamir White vs. Alex Singleton
With Josh Jacobs out, Zamir White has been on a strong run over the last three weeks. His 285 rushing yards are the fourth-most of any running back during that timeframe, and he’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry which is tied for 12th at the position.
Even more impressively, White ranks second with 218 yards after first contact (yco) which is just one yard behind James Conner for first place, per PFF. Also, the Georgia product is seventh-best with 3.69 yco per attempt.
An argument could be made that he’s already proven worthy of taking over as the Raiders’ lead back next season. But another strong performance this weekend could cement White’s status moving forward, especially since the Broncos have a quality run-defending linebacker in Alex Singleton.
Singleton has been a tackle machine this season as he ranks fourth in the NFL with 164 total takedowns. Per PFF, 90 of those have come against the run and his 75.2 run defense grade ranks 25th among linebackers. He’s also made a bunch of impact plays with 29 run stops which is tied for 16th at the position.
All of this makes for an interesting matchup on Sunday that could serve as a preview for next season as well.