In Week 9, the Raiders (6-2) will host the Broncos (6-2) in a divisional clash for first place in what is arguably the league’s strongest division this season. Here’s how the two teams match up according to data from our Week 8 Report:
Requisite Reads for Newcomers:
The Broncos are currently No. 1 in BES Defense but will be missing two critical pieces of that unit in cornerbacks Aqib Talib (back) and Kayvon Webster (hamstring). This leaves the Broncos secondary dangerously depleted and vulnerable against the Raiders No. 7 BES Offense which features emerging quarterback Derek Carr and an explosive trio of receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts.
KEY MATCHUP: Raiders Offensive Line vs. Broncos Front-Seven
The Raiders own the highest Pass Protection score (3.40) among all 32 teams. That score is further supported by them leading the NFL in both fewest sacks allowed with nine and fewest quarterback hits allowed with just 18. This has undoubtedly enabled them to average 285.1 passing yards per game which ranks fifth in the league.
Conversely, the Broncos boast the second-highest Pass Pressure score (3.32) in the BES coupled with 26 sacks on the season which ties them for first place in the league. Outside linebackers Von Miller (8.5 sacks) and Shane Ray (4 sacks) along with defensive end Derek Wolfe (4 sacks) comprise the bulk of the Broncos success in putting opposing signal callers in the dirt.
Third-year Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who owns a 100.3 passer rating and has thrown for 2, 321 yards and 17 touchdowns against just two interceptions, could exploit the Broncos crippled secondary if Miller & Co. aren’t able to consistently pressure and flush him from the pocket.
X-FACTOR: Raiders WR Seth Roberts
Roberts works primarily from the slot but is second on the team in receiving touchdowns with four. What makes Roberts such an intriguing component of this game is the Broncos injury-plagued secondary. The Raiders could severely strain the Broncos lack of depth at cornerback by forcing them into nickel and dime packages. This could give Roberts some favorable matchups resulting in some potentially game-altering plays from the Raiders passing game.
As depicted by the data, this is a fairly evenly matched contest but upon closer inspection, things shift a bit in favor of the Raiders winning this game. The Broncos Pass Protection score of 2.27 opens the door for the Raiders defense, led by pass-rushing monstrosity Khalil Mack, to be disruptive and limit the Broncos ability to keep pace with the Raiders offense.
Also, the Raiders have a slight edge in SOS which becomes magnified by them having home field advantage. Therefore, despite the Broncos ranking higher in BES Overall, we expect the Raiders to win this game and take sole of possession of first place in the embattled AFC West.