Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 23, 2017 at 11:50 AM
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DENVER BRONCOS (3-7) AT OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-6)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon.

SERIES HISTORY: 115th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 61-51-2. The Broncos have won 10 of the last 12. The most historic meeting was on Jan. 1, 1978, when the Broncos won 20-17 to claim the first of their eight AFC championships.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The first thing Denver wants to do is eliminate turnovers, and that will start with keeping Paxton Lynch in a game plan that caters to his strengths.

Broncos coach Vance Joseph said he told Lynch to run when the pass isn't there, so look for Lynch to use his legs to make plays more than Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler did. This could leave the Broncos with more runs than passes when the game is done; but, given that their ground game has been the more efficient part of their offense, this might be a good thing.

Defensively, the Broncos will try to contain tight end Jared Cook and hold the Raiders to fewer than 20 points for the eighth time in their last nine meetings.

The Raiders thought they had the proper blueprint in Mexico City and were encouraged by 61 rushing yards on nine carries by Marshawn Lynch. The score got away from them and the run was abandoned.

Jack Del Rio's best win as Raiders coach came by running right at the Broncos. That's his favorite way to play, and he'll try it again.

Defensively, there's a new coordinator (John Pagano), but he's unlikely to take too many challenges blitzing and exposing a woefully under-talented secondary. They'll play it fairly straight against a rookie quarterback and hope for the best.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Broncos OTs Garett Bolles and Allen Barbre vs. Raiders OLB Khalil Mack. Mack leads the Raiders with 5.5 sacks, but he has just 1.5 sacks in the Raiders' last six games -- a half-sack fewer than he had against the Broncos in Week 4. Bolles and Barbre's efforts to protect Paxton Lynch could be helped by the quarterback himself if the second-year passer escapes the pocket and uses the aggressiveness of the Raiders' edge rushers against them.

--Raiders TE Jared Cook vs. Broncos LBs Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis and Ss Darian Stewart and Justin Simmons. Tight ends have given the Broncos problems throughout the year, including Cincinnati's Tyler Kroft last week, who scored a touchdown on a 1-yard reception. Cook has caught 20 passes for 326 yards over the last four games, and will likely be Derek Carr's primary target given the struggles of Oakland's receivers against cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib in recent years.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Broncos QB Paxton Lynch. The second-year QB is expected to run a simplified version of the offense in his 2017 starting debut. It should include more run-pass options than it did for Trevor Siemian or Brock Osweiler as the Broncos try to take advantage of his mobility and use his ability to create plays off-script.

FAST FACTS: The Broncos are on their first six-game losing streak since 1990. It's just the fifth time they've had a streak that long. ... WR Demaryius Thomas caught a touchdown pass for the third consecutive game last week, after scoring no touchdowns in his first seven games.

He leads Denver with 53 catches and has 50 catches in six consecutive seasons. ... Denver RB C.J. Anderson has 422 scrimmage yards (105.5 per game) and four TDs in his past four games vs. Oakland. ... WR Emmanuel Sanders has three TDs in his past four games at Oakland. ... LB Von Miller has five sacks, three forced fumbles and a recovery in his past six vs. Oakland. He has four sacks in the past four road games. ... The Raiders have failed to score more than 17 points in their six losses, averaging just 12.5 points. However, their offense has averaged 32.3 points in their wins. ... The Raiders are the first team since 1950 to not record a single interception in their first 10 games. ... QB Derek Carr's 11-game streak with at least one touchdown pass is the fourth-longest active streak in the league. ... RB Marshawn Lynch has four TDs in four career games vs. Denver. He has two rushing TDs in his past two games and has 78 since entering the NFL in 2007. ... WR Amari Cooper caught a TD pass last week. He has three TDs in his past four division games. ... DE Khalil Mack has nine sacks in the past four meetings. He has 8.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, three recoveries and an interception-TD in his past 11 home games. ... LB NaVorro Bowman has at least 10 tackles in four of the past five games.

PREDICTION: These teams are two of the bigger disappointments in the NFL, on both sides of the ball. That means they are in for another close game, and it's the Raiders' turn to win.

OUR PICK: Raiders, 23-21.

--Chris Cluff

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