The Raiders will go to Denver to take on the Broncos in Week 11. To prepare you for that game, we spoke with Jon Heath of Broncos Wire to discuss this AFC West matchup.
1. Has Russell Wilson improved at all since the last time these two teams played?
Not really. Believe it or not, the Raiders game was actually one of his best games this season, at least statistically. He has a bad habit of sometimes locking onto one receiver and not being willing to look to other targets, often overlooking an open tight end or receiver in the middle of the field. That’s a frustrating trait for an 11th-year QB to have, and it hasn’t gone away.
Wilson seems to be at his best when he moves around and extends plays, perhaps because that gives him a clearer field of vision. Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett also hasn’t done a great job getting the most out of Wilson, and Denver’s offense has been hindered by some key injuries. But there’s no question that Wilson hasn’t lived up to expectations this season.
2. The defense has been stellar this season. Who should get most of the credit?
Ejiro Evero has done a fantastic job as a first-year defensive coordinator. On the defensive line, D.J. Jones has really helped shore up the run defense (although they certainly didn’t slow down the Raiders’ run game in Week 4). On the edge, Baron Browning has emerged as an extremely promising pass rusher, and he’s been solid against the run.
At the second level, Josey Jewell has been a rock for Denver when healthy. In the secondary, Justin Simmons is a ball hawk, and Pat Surtain is already making a case as the best cornerback in the NFL. The Broncos have talent on every level of the defense and Evero has done a great job putting the pieces together.
3. Is there any hope that the Broncos can get back on track this season?
There is some hope. In theory, this week’s game against the Raiders is winnable, then they face the 3-7 Panthers one week later. If Denver can secure back-to-back wins, perhaps players and coaches will regain some confidence that could help them go on a run late in the season.
That might be wishful thinking, though. Hackett seems to be in over his head as a coach and the offense has been absolutely dismal through nine games. At some point, the Broncos just are who they are.
4. Who is an under-the-radar player to watch in Week 11?
Rookie cornerback Damarri Mathis had some tough growing pains earlier this season when he first stepped in for an injured Ronald Darby, but he’s been much better in recent weeks. He is yet to allow a touchdown catch this season and has helped Denver’s secondary stay on track despite several injuries.
5. Who wins and why?
It’s hard to pick a winner for this game because both teams are a mess but both are also desperate for a win. In my Sports Weekly preview, I gave a slight edge to the Broncos simply because they’re playing at home.
Broncos 24, Raiders 20.