A look at the matchup between the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos

A look at the matchup between the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos

Head coach Jack Del Rio takes the Oakland Raiders into Denver on Sunday with the AFC West title on the line in the team's last regular season game of 2016. 

The Raiders have already locked up their first playoff berth since 2002, but now hope they can win the division. The AFC West title is theirs if the Kansas City Chiefs lose against the Chargers, or if the Raiders can beat the Broncos for the second time this year. But they'll have to do it without their leader and start quarterback Derek Carr. 

Carr broke his fibula in last week's game against the Indianapolis Colts and had surgery on it on Tuesday, leaving veteran Matt McGloin as the Raiders new starter. 

Without Carr, the Raiders will need to rely more on Latavius Murray and their two rookie running backs, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. The Broncos defense is vulnerable against the run, giving up 135 rushing yards a game, the third worst in the NFL. Consistency in the ground game will give McGloin shorter third-down plays, while also open up the play-action pass. The Raiders ran the ball well in their Sunday Night Football victory earlier this year, rushing for 218 yards. 

McGloin will have a difficult matchup throwing the ball as the Broncos still feature the best secondary in the NFL, allowing just 187 yards per game through the air. Cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Darian Stewart lead the team with three interceptions a piece, and McGloin will have to be aware of where they are to limit his turnovers.

As always, the Raiders offensive line needs to protect McGloin and that means keeping All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller away from him. Miller is having another stellar season with 13.5 sacks on the year, the second-most in the NFL. 

The defense must also step up with Carr out, and will face a Broncos defense that has struggled to move the ball, averaging just 321 yards per game (27th in the NFL). With Denver already out of the playoffs, head coach Gary Kubiak says he will play both his rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch and former seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian. 

No matter who is lined up behind center for the Broncos, the Raiders will have to keep an eye on wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who lead the team with five touchdowns each while recording 1,036 yards on 86 catches and 1,032 yards on 79 receptions, respectively. 

The Broncos running game has been hampered with starting running back C.J. Anderson being placed on injured reserve, leaving rookie Devontae Booker as the lead back. He has tallied 555 rushing yards and three touchdowns this season.

The Raiders will get a bye and host a playoff game should they win on Sunday. They can also clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they win and the New England Patriots lose to the Miami Dolphins. If the Raiders lose and the Chiefs win, Del Rio will have to take his team on the road in the wild card game to take on the Houston Texans. 


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