Fantasy preview: How will Broncos’ stars perform against Raiders?

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In advance of Sunday’s Broncos-Raiders game, Broncos Wire examines the matchup with fantasy football projections for Denver players courtesy of our colleagues at The Huddle.

The second meeting between these AFC West rivals likely will drop the loser from wild-card contention, though it’s still an uphill battle for the winner. The Denver Broncos (7-7) come off a 15-10 loss to the Bengals that knocked quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out of the game. The Las Vegas Raiders (7-7) managed to steal a win at the Browns with a last-second field goal but lost to the Chiefs by 37 points the previous week. Both franchises have struggled over the past month, but either is capable of the surprise performance. They are equally adept at dropping a dud game as well.

The Raiders won 34-24 at Denver in Week 6.

Bridgewater has not been a difference-maker this year, but at least he wasn’t a liability. Now that he’s out with a concussion, Drew Lock returns as the starter, and that’s what the Broncos had tried to avoid after last year. The Broncos have a chance to take down their AFC West rivals as they spin through the division over the final three weeks. But the Chiefs are practically already out of reach as the division leader.

The rushing offense is solid with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon in a tag-team scenario, but dropping down to Lock is likely more than this offense can stand. The Broncos’ defense remains one of the better units in the league, but the offense just cannot keep up when they fall behind.

Quarterback

Bridgewater passed for 334 yards and three scores against the Raiders in Week 6, but he also threw three interceptions and fumbled once. He’s not expected to be placed onto injured reserve, but he’s out this week after his head was slammed into the ground while being tackled. Bridgewater was hospitalized that night but then released. There’s a chance that he could return in the next two weeks, but by then, the season might be effectively over. This will be Lock’s first start of the season. He was the starter in 2020, when he threw for 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with only 2,933 passing yards.

Drew Lock projection vs. Raiders
Fantasy Points: 14
Passing: 200 yds, 1 TD

Running backs

Williams (11 carries, 53 yards) and Gordon (10 carries, 50 yards) split the workload in Week 6 against the Raiders. Both caught three short passes as well. There’s been no change in the rotation, but the Broncos have gone to a heavier run script in the second half of the season. They’ve divided over 30 carries in all but one game since Week 8 and totaled 11 touchdowns in that time. Gordon is the more likely scorer, while Williams has been the more effective rusher. With Bridgewater out, the Broncos will seek to get as much as they can from their backfield this week.

Melvin Gordon projection vs. Raiders
Fantasy points: 14
Rushing: 60 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: 1 rec, 10 yds

Javonte Williams projection vs. Raiders
Fantasy points: 12
Rushing: 70 yds
Receiving: 3 rec, 20 yds

Wide receivers

Courtland Sutton (eight catches, 94 yards, TD) and Tim Patrick (three catches, 42 yards, TD) scored against the visiting Raiders in Week 6. Jerry Jeudy was still on injured reserve at the time. That week was the high point of the Broncos’ passing this season. Sutton hasn’t scored since that Week 6 meeting and has failed to produce more than two catches in any of his past seven contests. Jeudy still has yet to score but was offering around 50 yards in most weeks until last Sunday, when he was blanked on four targets. Patrick is even less consistent, although he caught the lone touchdown in Week 15 that was thrown by Lock. This was already a mediocre unit that declined in the second half of the season. Swapping Bridgewater for Lock isn’t likely to improve anything.

Jerry Jeudy projection vs. Raiders
Fantasy points: 9
Receiving: 4 rec, 50 yds

Courtland Sutton projection vs. Raiders
Fantasy points: 5
Receiving: 3 rec, 20 yds

Tight end

Noah Fant led the receivers with nine catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting with the Raiders. That was also his last time to reach the end zone. Fant offers four or five catches for as many as 60 yards per game, but he’s consistently been less productive in road games. He posted five catches for 57 yards last Sunday for one of his better performances this season.

Noah Fant projection vs. Raiders
Fantasy points: 19
Receiving: 6 rec, 70 yds, 1 TD

Match to defense

The difference in this meeting is that the Broncos have to switch to Lock and play on the road. That will not be a plus in a matchup that they already lost back in Week 6. The Raiders have declined since that first meeting with their deluge of personnel issues and constant bad mojo. They have been one of the lowest-ranked defenses against running backs, and the Broncos will see success running the ball unless the Raiders get a lead and force Denver to pass.

Both Gordon and Williams merit weekly starts regardless of matchup, and that is no different in this Sunday tilt.

The Raiders’ pass defense gives up at least two scores in most games, but the addition of Lock throws much risk in relying on any aspect of the passing offense. Fant led Denver’s receivers back in Week 6, and the Raiders defense against tight ends continued to be among the worst in the league. They’ve already allowed 10 touchdowns to a position that is rarely used in the red zone, so expect Fant to be one of the top tight ends for Week 16.

The Broncos’ trio of wideouts was already short of any fantasy merit, and Lock isn’t going to change the risk that each presents. Stick with Fant, Gordon and Williams, and forget the rest for this week.