Three keys to the Broncos beating the Raiders in Week 4

Sep 29, 2022, 6:30 AM
Derek Carr vs. the Broncos...
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos have arguably the best defense in the NFL. At the same time, they have arguably the worst offense in the league, as well. They have a 2-1 record after back-to-back wins at home against the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers.

This week, the Broncos are back on the road for their first divisional game of the year. They are traveling to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders in what should be an entertaining game between teams that hate each other. The winless Raiders would love nothing more than get their first win of the season against the Broncos.

The Raiders are desperate and backed into a corner. If they have designs to be a playoff team in 2022, they must get on the winning track. First in their way to the winning track are the Broncos.

Here are three keys to victory in Week 4.


Disturb Carr’s Rhythm

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr knows how to take care of business against the Broncos. Under former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, Carr is taking a few more chances than he has in past seasons. Carr’s 8.2 air yards per attempt is the highest of his career, showing McDaniels is asking him to go down the field more than ever before.

After three games, his 60.8 completion percentage is the second lowest of his career – with his lowest coming in his rookie season. Things aren’t going smooth for Carr right now, and he’s thrown just six touchdowns with four interceptions. The Broncos want to make sure he doesn’t start playing better against them on Sunday.

So, the Broncos must get pressure on Carr early and often. That means they’ll attack the right side of the offensive line. The Raiders offensive line has question marks all across their entirety, but all advanced data shows they are weakest from the center to the right tackle. The Broncos pass rush should be able to get pressure by sending just four defenders. That should disrupt the rhythm Carr is trying to get into. If they can get middle pressure right in Carr’s face, that will greatly benefit the Broncos defensive efforts on Sunday.


Don’t Let Waller Shake Free

Even though the Broncos defense is great, they still struggle at times against opposing tight ends. This week, the Broncos face arguably the best tight end in the league in Darren Waller. A converted wide receiver, Waller spent years with the Baltimore Ravens honing his craft at his new position. The Raiders signed him, and Waller became a Pro Bowl player.

It’s Waller’s size/speed combination which makes him a dangerous weapon in the passing game. He’s too big for safeties to cover, and he’s too fast for linebackers to cover. After three games, Waller’s 151 yards receiving ranks fifth in the league at the position. His 13 catches put him tied at no.6 in the NFL (with David Njoku).

It takes a special player to go toe-to-toe with Waller, but the Broncos might have the player to do just that if they’ll once again think outside the box. Years ago, when facing Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, the Broncos would put cornerback Aqib Talib on superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski. Talib had the size and tenacity to excel in this matchup, and I think Patrick Surtain might be the answer against Waller at times. Now, he’s going to be busy with superstar receiver Davante Adams, so it’s doubtful the Broncos put Surtain on Waller. That means the linebackers in coverage like Josey Jewell, Jonas Griffith, and Justin Strnad will have their hands full in Week 4.


Get Off to a Hot Start

The Broncos offense showed some signs of life at the end of the game against the 49ers. Over three games, the Broncos have 43 points and two of those come from the defense when they sacked 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for a safety. That means only 41 points have come from quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense.

The Broncos rank No. 24 in the NFL with just 30.3 percent of their drives ending in an offensive score. Compare that to the Raiders who rank No. 3 in the NFL with a whopping 48.3 percent of their drives ending in an offensive score. The Raiders will move the ball, and they will score points on about half of their drives. The Broncos must get off to a hot start to keep up with the Raiders.

Yes, the Raiders have lost a lead before this season in a game against the Arizona Cardinals, but the Broncos offense has not yet proven to be as dangerous as the unit run by quarterback Kyler Murray in the desert. I’d like to see Wilson run the ball to keep the Raiders defense on their toes. He doesn’t need to run wild but showing the threat of him running the ball will give the defense something to think about. That could help them be more efficient when moving the ball, and that could help them get off to a hot start. The Raiders are winless, and you don’t want to give them or their home crowd any sign of hope – especially early in the game.



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Three keys to the Broncos beating the Raiders in Week 4