clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Raiders-Broncos Week 18: Areas of Concern

Jarrett Stidham a familiar face for Las Vegas that’s now leading the Denver offense

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham will be ready to roll his sleeves up and lead the Denver Broncos offense against his former team, the Las Vegas Raiders, this Sunday.
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

A lot has changed since the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders went toe-to-toe all the way back in Week 1. Both teams have a different starting quarterback under center and the Silver & Black have an interim head coach at the helm.

But what hasn’t changed is the determination both teams have beating one another. The regular season finale in Allegiant Stadium Sunday may mean little for the rest of the NFL world, but for the Broncos (8-8 overall) and Raiders (7-9), it’s a division matchup that neither want to lose.

Las Vegas rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell — now QB1 after Jimmy Garoppolo started in the Raiders’ 17-16 Week 1 win in Denver — didn’t play in the first go-around but notes the Broncos (8-8) are still a competitive group.

“Yeah, obviously it feels like a long time ago, a lot has changed. But it’s a division opponent, a really good team with good players at each level that we need to be aware of,” O’Connell said during his mid-week press conference. “So, I think we’re doing a good job of scouting them, trying to understand who we’re playing against this week, and it’s going to take a great game for us. They’re obviously a good team that’s won some games this year, so it’s going to take a lot from us.”

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis Colts
Las Vegas Raiders rookie quarterback (4) will face the Denver Broncos for the first time in his NFL career this Sunday.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams echoed the sentiments of the first-year signal caller. And he noted that watching film to study up on the Broncos involves looking at the tape from the season opener to what Denver has done recently.

“A little bit of everything. It’s a long week and we have a lot of tape to watch. I’ll watch all the games. Not every single game, but I pick a certain amount that I want to,” Adams said, during his media session. “Sometimes just goes off on who’s on offense in certain ones. But definitely will peek back at week one, but a lot of things have changed with the personnel and guys that are playing and not playing. So, you got to look at some recent stuff, too.”

A Familiar Face

Las Vegas doesn’t have to look far for an advance scouting report or even tape on Denver’s new starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham. The fourth-year quarterback started two games for the Raiders last season after being acquired via trade from the New England Patriots.

Stidham was at the helm of the Broncos offense in the team’s 16-9 win over the Los Angeles Chargers last week and gets the nod at QB1 for benched former starter Russell Wilson. Familiarity is there, but now Stidham is operating Sean Payton’s offense in Denver and that’ll be a major area of concern for Las Vegas.

Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham knows what awaits his defense this Sunday.

“The thing that stands out to me is, again, the quick decision making. He does have an arm, he’s mobile in the pocket. It looked like last week he had a pretty good understanding of the offense that Sean’s running, so all the normal challenges,” Graham noted. “Each week we have to prepare for multiple quarterbacks because you never know what could happen in our sport. Any game the next guy could be up. So, looking forward to the challenge. They have good weapons offensively and then the scheme from Sean is top notch. He’s one of the best ever to do it in my opinion. So, we got our hands full this week.”

Payton didn’t put too much on Stidham’s plate going with a balanced attack. Denver did get great effort from other skill position players — like big wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey who had a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Chargers — to help support its new starting signal caller. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Humphrey could pose quite the challenge for Las Vegas smaller cornerbacks.

NFL: DEC 31 Chargers at Broncos
Outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper (0) has a sack in the last three games for the Denver Broncos. He leads the team with 8.5 sacks on the season.
Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Execution Is King

The Raiders defense under Graham’s watchful eye has been on point. Las Vegas offense, on the other hand, has been hit and miss. This of course is a byproduct of a interim head coach Antonio Pierce, interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree, and rookie quarterback O’Connell learning on the job.

The roller coaster performance is the antithesis of consistency — something the offense strives each time they hit the field.

“The word consistency is the right word. And that’s what we plan on doing from the execution standpoint,” Hardegree began, “I’m very proud of the progression of our rookie quarterback because that is something that we did. We made that decision to play with him and he’s really grown as a person and as a player, and I’m very impressed with him.”

Las Vegas must execute against a defense that’s impressing Pierce.

“Defensively, they’re playing really well. They’re playing really well defensively, and I think offensively, obviously there was a change at quarterback,” Pierce started. “But you see a team that’s being physical up front. We know Stidham very well. Obviously, there’s some things there that he did really well that they did last week. And I think overall, as a team, they’ve gotten better. As a team that was, ‘Oh my God what’s happening to them?’ And now they’re playing really good football.”

Keep an eye on Denver outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper who is having a breakout third year. He’s had a sack in the last three games and leads the Broncos with 8.5 quarterback takedowns. Then there’s tackling machine linebackers Alex Singleton (team-leading 164 total tackles (101 solo)) and Josey Jewell (99 total tackles (54 solo)).