As the Raiders play quite possibly their final game at the Oakland Coliseum, let’s take a look at three things to watch in their matchup against the Denver Broncos on Christmas Eve.
Stopping the Broncos on the Ground
The Broncos have one of the better running games in the league and it is essentially the foundation of their offense. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave leans heavily on undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay to consistently keep the Broncos on schedule, which limits the amount of difficult down and distance situations for quarterback Case Keenum. Lindsay rushed for over 100 yards, averaging over 7.5 yards per carry in the Broncos first meeting with the Raiders this year. The Raiders have consistently been unable to stop the run all year, ranking last in the league for rushing yards per game against (146.4). If the Raiders have any hope of winning on Monday night, this trend is going to have to turn in the opposite direction.
Establish a running game on offense
The Raiders offensive line is extremely banged up, which has meant that Derek Carr is under pressure way too often in the passing game. Carr might have a great arm, but if he doesn’t have time to throw such a trait is redundant. The Broncos have some great pass rushers in Von Miller and rookie first-round pick Bradley Chubb. They are going to be big problems for the Raiders line if the silver and black get stuck in obvious passing situations. The best way to curtail this is to establish the running game. Doug Martin and Jalen Richard must find ways to keep the Raiders on schedule. If not, the Raiders won’t have a chance keeping this game close.
The Execution of Smart Football
In the last matchup between the Raiders and the Broncos, the Raiders were in a prime position to win leading 19-7 in the third quarter before collapsing late in the game to lose by a single point. The collapse was a team effort in which there were a few questionable coaching decisions, along with a failure to execute to win the game. Gruden’s game management skills have improved as the season has gone on, but whether the Raiders are going to be able to execute under pressure if the game is close, is another matter altogether.