By now, the smoke has cleared on the Oakland Raiders’ planned move to Las Vegas, and the prodigal son, Marshawn Lynch, wants to get the city a title before the exit. Can Denver slow down this train?
The much-improved Oakland Raiders made the giant leap to the playoffs in 2016 with a 12-4 record, but phenom quarterback Derek Carr got injured prior to the playoffs. Oakland fell to Brock Osweiler and the Houston Texans, 27-14, and were left with what could have been.
Despite the loss, the future is extremely bright for the Raiders who in addition to bringing in Marshawn Lynch, have the best offensive line in the AFC west, and possibly the entire AFC.
The bullying bunch will create many holes for Lynch, who won’t have to carry the load with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, who spelled departing Latavius Murray last season.
But 60 percent of Lynch is all the Raiders need. Especially when his style fits best around the end zone. Apparently Lynch is looking better than ever.
Emerging receiver Amari Cooper took a step back last season with consistency but veteran Michael Crabtree stepped up. The duo is a year stronger and should gel with their young quarterback.
On the defensive side, the Oakland Raiders still have work to do to join the likes of the Patriots.
Against the Broncos in 2016
Oakland had their way with Denver using their bruising offensive line and taking advantage of Denver’s key weakness, defensive line.
The Raiders trampled over the Broncos’ paltry run defense 30-20 in Oakland, Nov. 6.
Latavius Murray ran for 114 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. At the time, the 7-3 Raiders met a 6-3 Broncos team destined for the playoffs. Oakland dominated Denver on the ground with 218 yards to the Broncos’ 33.
Khalil Mack had two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
The Raiders and Broncos met on Jan. 1 for a meaningless week 17 game in which Denver won 24-6.
Against the Broncos in 2017
Not much has changed with the Broncos’ defensive line woes and if Marshawn Lynch is close to his prime self, it could be a long couple of afternoons for the Broncos.
A healthy Derek Carr with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will be a formidable pass game. Adding a bruising running game with Marshawn Lynch against the weak Denver defensive line could spell big trouble for the Broncos.
To bolster their defense, the Raiders added Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley. Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. had specific players in mind when they drafted Conley.
“A lot of speed,” Norton said of Conley. “Youth, length all the things you like to get on matchups. You really need matchups. These guys do a great job disrupting and they should cover really well.”
Sean Smith and David Amerson will also mentor and guide the young Raiders secondary as they face off against Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Thomas is finally healthy for the Broncos.
The Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders are two trains passing in the night. Oakland built for the future, with some key veteran presence. Denver is built to win now with a vaunted defense, but a very uncertain offensive direction.