Broncos scouting report: How Denver matches up against Raiders, predictions

Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) at Denver Broncos (5-10), Sunday, 2:30 p.m. MT, Empower Field at Mile High, CBS, 850 AM, 94.1 FM, 103.5 FM 

3 Things to watch

1. Finishing on a high note. All season long, the Broncos have asserted they are a better team than what they’ve shown most Sundays. So how about backing up that talk in the season finale against the franchise’s archrival who, by the way, brutalized the Broncos in their first-ever trip to Las Vegas in November? Drew Lock must play well to take momentum as the “franchise QB” into 2021, and that includes the top priority of taking care of the football. Vic Fangio needs a win over the hated Raiders to remind the fanbase the team still has heart following two straight disheartening losses.

2. Jerry Jeudy’s rebound. The rookie endured a nightmare game last week when he dropped five passes, including one on a would-be touchdown and one on a vertical route on the team’s final possession. Jeudy has 10 drops on the year overall, and the 15th overall pick this year was visibly dejected by his miscues in Los Angeles, throwing his helmet on the sideline and burying his head in his hands. Lock will surely be looking Jeudy’s way a lot versus the Raiders — Jeudy had a career-high 15 targets last week — so the wideout needs to redeem himself.

3. Broncos swan songs. Sunday may be the last game in orange and blue for a multitude of notable Broncos. Defensive end Shelby Harris, safety Justin Simmons and defensive end DeMarcus Walker will all be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Safety Kareem Jackson’s 2021 cap hit of $12,882,353 could make him expendable. And watching from the sidelines, running back Phillip Lindsay (injured reserve, restricted free agent) and cornerback A.J. Bouye (suspended, no guaranteed money remaining on his contract) also might be done in Denver.

Who has the edge?

When the Raiders run

Las Vegas ranks 12th with 120.7 rushing yards per game behind Josh Jacobs, who needs 24 yards to record a second straight 1,000-yard season. The fading Denver run D has regressed over the past couple months and is 24th with 131.6 rushing yards allowed per game.

Edge: Raiders

When the Raiders pass

Quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders rank 10th with 257.2 passing yards per game and face a depleted secondary with unproven cornerbacks in Michael Ojemudia, De’Vante Bausby and Parnell Motley. Motley took over for a benched Baubsy against Los Angeles.

Edge: Raiders

When the Broncos run

Melvin Gordon (who needs 107 yards for 1,000) will again be called on to carry the load with Lindsay injured. Gordon had 79 yards rushing last week and was a first-half spark, but Denver will need his presence for all four quarters against a defense paced in tackling by inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski.

Edge: Even

When the Broncos pass

Lock’s interceptions (tied for an NFL-worst 15 on the season), Jeudy’s stone hands, consistent cracks in pass protection… If it’s not one issue, it’s another that’s hindered Denver’s aerial attack in 2020. The Raiders present a solid chance for that unit to find a rhythm, as Las Vegas ranks 25th with 259.2 passing yards allowed per game.

Edge: Broncos

Special teams

Last week, Brandon McManus missed his first field goal from under 40 yards in three years, but he’s still about as reliable as kickers come. The same could be said for Daniel Carlson, the Raiders’ kicker and Colorado Springs native, who has connected on 32-of-34 field goals this year. Denver’s kickoff unit can’t give up a big runback.

Edge: Even

Post predictions

Ryan O’Halloran, beat writer: Broncos 21, Raiders 13

Jerry Jeudy catches two touchdown passes as the Broncos finish with a win and possibly play themselves out of a top-10 draft pick.

Kyle Newman, beat writer: Raiders 20, Broncos 17

Another disappointing year ends in a bitter defeat as Drew Lock throws two second-half interceptions, and Derek Carr finds tight-end Darren Waller for the winning touchdown late in the fourth.

Mark Kiszla, columnist: Broncos 27, Raiders 24

No fans in the stands and no playoff implications. Does this game matter? Heck, yeah. It’s Raiders week.

Sean Keeler, columnist: Broncos 28, Raiders 24

Drew Lock’s marching orders? Simple: Check down and hand off. The Raiduhs are surrendering 153.8 rushing yards per game over their last five contests — and 5.1 yards per carry.

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