The Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders are set to meet for the final time in the 2015 season when they face off in Week 14. After the two teams' close game in Week 5, Sunday’s contest in Denver might be a one-sided affair.
Denver is in control of the AFC West at 10-2, and they have a chance to clinch their fifth straight division title with a win against the Raiders. Losing four of their last five games and falling to 5-7, Oakland is two games out of the wild-card race with little chance to make the playoffs.
Oakland had a chance to take the lead late in the fourth quarter when they played Denver earlier this season, but an interception returned for a touchdown by Chris Harris sealed the Raiders’ fate. Losing 16-10, it was Oakland’s lowest scoring output of the season.
According to vegasinsider.com, the Broncos are 7.5-point favorites. The over/under is 43.5 points.
Importance of Carr
The Raiders looked like a potential playoff team in the first half of the season when Derek Carr was playing like a top quarterback. Now that Carr has cooled off, coming off his worst performance in 2015, Oakland has been all but eliminated from playoff contention.
Oakland has proven that they can’t win unless Carr has a great game. The team doesn’t have a great rushing attack and their defense is one of the worst in the league, placing a heavy burden on Carr’s shoulders. Carr has been all that the Raiders could have asked for and more, and the team has won all five games in which he’s had a passer rating of at least 100.0. But Oakland is winless in the seven games that Carr hasn’t reached the century mark, even coming up short when he threw four touchdown passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Oakland’s offense was one of the NFL’s best from Week 2 through Week 7 when the team averaged over 33 points per game. But they haven’t scored more than 24 points in a game since, and it’s resulted in them falling out of the postseason race.
If it wasn’t for their defense, the Raiders might have been able to win a few of the games in which Carr didn’t put up big numbers. But the unit is near the bottom of the NFL in multiple categories, and it isn’t in the same league as Denver’s defense.
Only five teams have allowed more points than Oakland, and they rank 25th in total defense. Conversely, Denver ranks second in points allowed and first in yards allowed. The Broncos haven’t allowed 30 points all season, and they only surrendered 29 points to the Kansas City Chiefs a few weeks ago because Denver threw five interceptions.
Carr could have a rough game against Denver, who ranks first in pass defense and sacks, and second in opposing passer rating. DeMarcus Ware, who has 6.5 sacks and hasn’t played in over a month, is on track to play on Sunday.
Osweiler Outplaying Manning
For the fourth consecutive game, Brock Osweiler will get the start over an injured Peyton Manning. The backup has outplayed the future Hall of Famer, and Oakland would have a better chance to pull off the upset if Manning was on the field.
Osweiler certainly hasn’t been anything special. He has an 85.8 passer rating on the season, and Denver has scored just 17 points in two of his three starts. But the quarterback hasn’t made nearly as many costly mistakes as Manning did, helping Denver use the league’s best defense to win 10 of their first 12 games.
Osweiler has thrown five touchdown passes and three interceptions, and he hasn’t been picked off more than once in any game. Manning was an interception machine over the first nine games of the season with 17 interceptions. He was picked off more than once in five of his last six games, including Denver’s narrow victory over Oakland two months ago.
With the way Denver has stifled opposing quarterbacks, the Raiders could have trouble moving the ball on Sunday. A bad game for Carr will mean another loss for Oakland.
Denver over Oakland, 23-13