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The Broncos game plan for beating the Raiders in Week 6 showdown

Oct 16, 2021, 1:52 PM | Updated: 1:53 pm
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 1: The Oakland Raiders line up on offense behind Rodney Hudson #61 in the thir...
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos have lost back-to-back games and their season is now teetering on the edge. They started 3-0, just like this week’s opponent the Las Vegas Raiders, but now at 3-2 (both teams are), the Broncos no longer seem like a lock to make a run at the postseason. The schedule is much tougher from here on out, so the Broncos need to get the winnable games when they can.

The Broncos should get back on the winning track this week. Back at home, the Broncos need to take advantage of a divisional opponent who is distracted from a surprising week that saw their former head coach Jon Gruden resign from his post amid controversy.

How will the Broncos attack the Raiders on both sides of the ball? Let’s take a look.

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When the Broncos Run the Ball

AS the season goes on, I hope offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur insists on running the ball more. The Broncos have a split backfield with Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams who are both playing good football. These two backs can live between the tackles, but as evidenced by both this year, big runs can be ripped off at any time.

Gordon is banged up with a hip injury, but I give him a lot of credit for playing well when he’s given the ball. I’d still like to see more passes thrown his way to take advantage of his speed in space – so hopefully we get to see that this week.

Against the Steelers last week, we saw the Broncos use a fake dive and toss to Williams that almost went for a touchdown. Softening up the inside and then attacking the edge of the defense just makes sense and this was a well-executed play. Even though he’s not a speedster, Williams wastes little motion as a runner and knows how to maximize the yards on most every carry.

It’s been a talking point about how the Broncos have faced plenty of stacked boxes this year, and that causes them to go away from the ground game. They should not see that against the Raiders this week. In fact, the Raider should continue to use an umbrella defense to slow down big plays in the passing game. That means they can run against lighter fronts. I believe Williams is set for a breakout game after flashing with some big runs in the last couple of contests.

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When the Broncos Pass the Ball

The Raiders defense is bend-but-don’t-break when it comes to playing the pass. That means the Broncos must be patient when working through the air. As aforementioned, they’ll use an umbrella look on defense to make sure they don’t get big plays over the top.

They don’t allow many big plays down the field with their defensive scheme, and the Raiders rally to the ball quickly on underneath routes. This limits the yards after the catch an opponent can gain on them. The Broncos will have to fight for every passing yard they get against the Raiders on Sunday.

Raiders cornerback Casey Hayward has had a bounce-back season. He’s playing good football and often shadows a team’s top receiver like he did against Sammy Watkins, Chase Claypool and all perimeter routes against Jaylen Waddle. This means Hayward versus Courtland Sutton will be the matchup to watch in Week 6. Sutton is coming off his best game of the season and is looking for a repeat performance.

While you may not see many big plays, the Broncos should take their shot when the proper time arrives. Sutton and Tim Patrick make great targets on the outside and in the red zone. Both are strong enough to fight off smaller defenders, and both win at the catch point regularly. In addition to what they can do on the outside, Sutton and Patrick can be the primary targets when the team gets to the red zone.

I’m not sure what to expect from tight end Noah Fant. His usage is inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. If Shurmur decides to use Fant, he should be able to snare passes against the Raiders soft coverage. Like the wide receivers, the yards after the catch are likely to be limited.

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When the Raiders Run the Ball

Last week, the Broncos were gashed by former Alabama running back Najee Harris. This week against the Raiders, the Broncos get another former Crimson Tide rusher to face as they go up against the Raiders and Josh Jacobs. He’s been a problem for the Broncos in the past, and Jacobs is a tough runner to deal with when he builds a head of steam.

In order to prevent him from building a head of steam, the outside defenders for the Broncos must put in the work. Much like they do when rushing the passer, the edge defenders must bend the edge and get to the big back before he crosses the line of scrimmage.

The Raiders will use heavy personnel to bully opponents. Jacobs is a powerful player, but he can win with speed and moves as well. When the team is near pay dirt, Jacobs likes to go vertical to leap over the line and into the end zone. The Broncos need to keep this in mind if Jacobs gets a goal line carry.

In addition to dealing with Jacobs, the Raiders can turn to Kenyan Drake as a change-of-pace back on passing downs. Drake is a speed back who can gash a defense quickly. He makes a perfect complementary back to Jacobs, and he hits the line with a different pace from the Raiders starter.

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When the Raiders Pass the Ball

We should see an energized Derek Carr against the Broncos. Carr is the leader of the team, and they’ll need to lean on him more than ever with Gruden resigning. The offense flows through Carr, and the revamped coaching staff knows that. Carr is going to get more control over this offense than he’s ever had before, and that’s bad news for the Broncos defense.

Carr uses his feet to buy extra time in the pocket. He goes through his hitches quickly and does a good job of making full-field reads. When the play isn’t there, Carr does have the athleticism to either scramble or break the pocket to create big plays. The Broncos are going to be chasing Carr around all game long, something outside linebacker Von Miller admitted this week.

“I’ve been playing this guy for years. If I had the answer, we’d win all of them. He’s able to just read defenses so quick and throw the ball so quick. Half the time, he doesn’t even need an offensive line. He can just catch it and throw it. It really hurts defenses when they throw the ball fast then they catch the ball for first downs and go for 15 or 20 yards after the catch.” Miller said.

Getting to Carr is one thing, getting him down before he flips the ball out is something else. The Broncos must make sure to keep up the coverage on the backside while the rushers do the work or Carr will find the open man.
The Raiders have speed, speed and more speed at the wide receiver position. Leading the way is second-year pro Henry Ruggs. A college teammate of Jerry Jeudy at Alabama, Ruggs is looking better this season and has blazing speed.

Tight end Darren Waller is the best in the game. The Broncos have historically struggled to cover tight ends, and Waller is the best they’ll face all season long. No matter if Patrick Surtain, Alexander Johnson, Justin Strnad or Justin Simmons covers Waller – he will get open and he should make big plays for the Raiders offense.

Finally, slot receiver Hunter Renfrow could help the Raiders move the chains. He reminds me of a young Brandon Stokley with the way he plays fearlessly underneath. Renfrow is a favorite target for Carr, and he can make difficult grabs on key downs to keep drives alive.

All of these targets could be problematic in different ways for the Broncos defense. The Raiders may be distracted from the Gruden situation, but they have talent, and they have the motivation to get a big road win. In the first game against a divisional opponent, the Broncos must not fail.

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