After playing nine disheartening games, the Denver Broncos have a chance at earning a morsel of respect by beating their loathed rival, the Las Vegas Raiders. Both teams have significantly underperformed the projections of NFL prognosticators.
Even though both teams are careening towards having the worst record in the league. The stake for the loser impacts more than just team pride.
First-year head coaches Nathaniel Hackett and Josh McDaniel could be playing for their jobs. The time is now for Hackett to shift his coaching acumen into high gear if he hopes to beat a team as desperate as his own.
What'll it take for the Broncos to beat the Raiders on Sunday and snap their five-game losing streak? Here are the keys.
Keep Raiders Short of 18 Points
In their first contest, the Raiders scored 32 points, with the offense generating 385 total yards. It was the first game that defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero was on the losing end against the opposing coordinator head-to-head.
In their first outing, McDaniels kept Evero and the Broncos' defense guessing. The Raiders used four wide receiver formations to spread the Broncos out, then used running back Josh Jacobs as a bulldozer against Denver's diminished defensive front.
Evero countered by bringing in an additional linebacker to stop the run. The Raiders responded by using their speedy running backs against the Broncos’ less nimble linebackers.
Look for Evero to stay in nickel defense most of the game and use a safety to cover running backs in pass coverage. Pay close attention to cornerback Patrick Sartain II’s ability to repeat his lockdown coverage of Raiders All-Pro wideout Davante Adams.
Stop Maxx Crosby | Avoid 3rd-&-Long
The Raider’s defense has floundered during most games. They're a collection of individuals that do not play together as a unit. But Crosby has deflowered numerous well-meaning Broncos offensive linemen over the years.
Crosby has an overall Pro Football Focus rating of 90.8 (No. 2 among all NFL edge defenders) and has racked up seven sacks. The veteran defender must be licking his chops against the Broncos’ injured and patchwork offensive line.
The Broncos' game plan must concentrate on maintaining a balanced run-and-pass game. Hackett should fight his instinct to stay in shotgun formation with three wide receivers.
The best course is to keep Wilson under center and stay in two tight-end sets. It would be an excellent time for Melvin Gordon to run for 100 yards with no fumbles.
Win the Turnover Battle
If the offense is impotent in the red zone, the Broncos will need to find other routes to generate points. The defense will need to produce at least two turnovers to provide good field position and infuse a shot of adrenaline into the offense.
It's time for Justin Simmons to make another game-changing interception. It would be refreshing to see the Broncos' special teams crew awake from hibernation and contribute in a meaningful way. It is kick returner Montrell Washington’s time to shine.
The Broncos Country's tolerance for lackluster performance is at an all-time low. Emotions are on the verge of boiling over, even for die-hard fans.
Hackett and his players can lower the temperature of the folks who take the time and spend the money to be in attendance at Empower Field by playing up to their potential and coming out with a victory.
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