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If Broncos can't beat Raiders, who can they beat? My Denver7 keys to victory

Coach Hackett can ill afford another ugly, low-scoring loss at home
Broncos Raiders Football
Posted at 9:59 AM, Nov 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-19 13:13:27-05

ENGLEWOOD — Yes, this is who the Broncos are.

Seven years after Peyton Manning retired, they are no closer to relevancy, this season following the tired trope of underwhelming offense and the countdown when the coach or coordinator — the same this year — will be fired.

So why are we here again after the addition of boss Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson? Simply put, the marriage hasn't worked. The meshing of concepts is the equivalent of taking two delicious recipes and combining them into a dish that tastes like pine tar.

Wilson prefers deep strikes, vertical routes, and is throwing those passes at the highest rate of his career. Hackett's West Coast attack leans on getting the ball out quickly and using the run game to set up play action and deep passes. That they are are scoring 14.6 points per game (worst), converting 28.5 percent of third downs (31st) and succeeding on red zone touchdowns (35 percent, dead last) eloquently explains the disconnect.

This Sunday offers a get-right game if one exists for Denver this season. The Raiders defense is awful, ranking bottom six in nearly every meaningful metric, including last in sacks (10), takeaways (six) and red zone touchdown percentage allowed (72). Then again, the Broncos have lost five straight games to the Raiders and seven of their last eight.

The Broncos' Denver7 keys to victory:

Pass or Fail?
It's embarrassing after nine games and a bye week that the Broncos enter Sunday with no offensive identity. Given the patchwork personnel because of injuries to linemen and receivers, the Broncos should not be relying on deep routes. Watching the game film with multiple players running verts and creating no separation as Wilson gets hit is maddening. I am not going to blame shotgun. I would consider going pistol to help the run game, and they must take the layups in the passing game with crossing routes, screens and check downs.

Run it up
Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten said the plan remains to use the hot hand in the running game, but they don't have one. You get what you emphasize. The Broncos abandoned the ground game last week, and more specifically Latavius Murray, who has been their best runner the past two weeks. They should use Murray on first and second down, Melvin Gordon on third — more early if pass protection is leaking — and Chase Edmonds in the slot or on screens. The Raiders allow 126.1 yards per game on the ground. Broncos have to take advantage of this.

Don't force it
Wilson is off to the worst eight game start of his career in terms of completion percentage and TD-to-INT ratio. Wilson has to show self-awareness. It needs to be about Us, not Russ. He has to allow the game to come to him, and make his traditional plays with a moving pocket or on a scramble. Forcing the situation is not working, resulting in a parade of third-and-longs and three-and-outs.

Slow Josh Jacobs
Josh Jacobs would finish his career in Canton if he played the Broncos weekly. Jacobs boasts nine touchdowns in six games vs. Denver. His second most against an opponent is four. Broncos nose tackle D.J. Jones said this is a "get back" game for a Broncos defense that Jacobs gashed for 144 yards and two scores earlier this season. The ability to use Dre'Mont Jones at outside linebacker — he told me he was comfortable in it vs. the Titans despite never standing up for a full game in his life — creates options on early downs to keep D.J. Jones and Mike Purcell on the field at the same time. Also, Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton will pair at inside linebacker — both have played well this season — as Jonas Griffith aggravated a foot injury in practice this week, a source confirmed, which will sideline him indefinitely.

Great vs. Great
Pat Surtain II vs. Davante Adams might be the most exciting aspect of this game. Surtain should earn All-Pro honors this season. According to Sports Info Solutions, he has allowed 114 yards on 32 targets and no touchdowns. Adams caught five passes for 54 yards on nine targets vs. Surtain in the first game. Surtain had two pass breakups. Surtain has become too good for his own good with opponents not challenging him. That should change this week.

Take it away
The Raiders protect the ball well. But, they are without tight end Darren Waller and receiver Hunter Renfrow. The chance exists with a big pop to a reserve or a strip sack to change the game with a short field. This figures to be a low-scoring, one-score game. A turnover on the opponent's side of the field could prove the difference.

Is Average Too Much To Ask?
The Broncos special teams remain a mess. Montrell Washington continues learning on the fly. But frankly he shouldn't be the punt returner at this point after multiple mistakes. It goes back to a bigger issue of lack of consequences. I would consider using Kendall Hinton or Jalen Virgil. In absence of change, the Broncos need to play clean in the margins as this represents arguably their most winnable remaining game on the schedule.

Renck's Prediction: Broncos 22, Raiders 19