Take a photographic trip through the years for a look back at the series history between the Broncos and the Raiders.
The Broncos' regular-season opener isn't for another few months, but over the next few weeks, DenverBroncos.com will take an early look at each game on the Broncos' 2020 schedule. We don't know how injuries could impact each contest, but we'll present the pressing storylines, matchups, questions and more.
It's never too early to start talking football.
We continue with Denver's Week 10 game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Storylines to monitor:
For the first time, the Broncos will head west to face the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. The shiny new stadium is slated to host the 2021 Pro Bowl, and it's a state-of-the-art space that will make this game must-see TV — even with the final round of the Masters scheduled for the same day.
But while the stadium and the team's name are new, the rivalry is the same. The Broncos and Raiders both finished 7-9 last season after Shelby Harris knocked down a pass on a two-point conversion attempt, and the two teams seem to be standing in each other's way on the road to the playoffs. Denver has split the season series against the Raiders every year since 2015, and it would go a long way toward the team's playoff hopes if the Broncos could steal a win on the road. That would set them up for a potential sweep when they host the Raiders in Week 17.
This matchup will also be the first between college teammates Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, who will always be linked following the Raiders' decision to take Ruggs during the 2020 NFL Draft.
Player to watch:
WR Henry Ruggs III
When the Raiders went on the clock with the 12th-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, many expected it was a mere formality that they would select Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb. Jeudy and Lamb were widely considered to be the top two receivers in this year's draft class, and plenty of mock drafts assigned Jeudy to the Raiders in the leadup to the draft. General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden, though, opted for speed as they selected Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs, a college teammate of Jeudy, ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash at the 2020 NFL Combine, but he didn't post nearly the same stats as Jeudy in college. In their final season in Tuscaloosa, Jeudy caught 77 passes for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ruggs, meanwhile, caught 40 passes for 746 yards and seven touchdowns.
The NFL is a different beast, though. Both players will look to prove themselves in their rookie seasons, even after COVID-19 dictated an unusual start to their careers. Don't be surprised if one of these players is in the midst of putting together a Rookie of the Year campaign by the time this Week 10 game rolls around. Be even less surprised if you hear Jeudy and Ruggs' names mentioned in tandem for years and years to come.
The question mark:
Do the Broncos have the edge at quarterback?
A year after the Raiders went 4-12 for a last-place finish in the AFC West, they rebounded in 2019 to go 7-9 and finish within one pass of second place in the division. In many ways, Las Vegas seems poised to take another step forward. The Raiders added Ruggs and Jason Witten to an offense that already had Josh Jacobs, and they signed perhaps the best two linebackers in free agency in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski.
So when the Broncos travel to Las Vegas, don't expect that this will be an easy win. But when I try to project wins and losses for teams, I always start with which club has an edge at quarterback. As the Broncos head into 2020, I don't think it's a stretch to say Drew Lock could be the preferable option to Derek Carr by the time Week 10 arrives. Lock showed admirable arm strength and play-making ability in his five starts, and if he can learn Pat Shurmur's offense while cutting down on a few rookie mistakes, he could emerge as the Broncos' legit long-term quarterback.
In the Week 17 matchup, Carr's 97.3 quarterback rating surpassed Lock's 90.9. If Lock can gain the upper hand, the Broncos will be well-positioned not just for this week's matchup, but for the foreseeable future.
The last meeting:
The Broncos and Raiders met to end the 2019 season, and in Lock's fifth and final start of the season, the Broncos jumped out to a 16-3 fourth-quarter lead. That wouldn't last long, though, as the Raiders added a pair of field goals and the Broncos struggled in the final frame. In Denver's final three possessions — not including a kneel down to end the game — Lock fumbled the ball, the Broncos went three-and-out and Brandon McManus missed a 57-yard field goal after an unnecessary roughness penalty on Garett Bolles. The Raiders marched down the field to score a touchdown, but with their slim playoff hopes dashed because of results elsewhere in the league, Oakland decided to go for two. As Carr looked to his left to throw to an open receiver, Harris knocked down the pass at the line to seal the win. With it, he guaranteed the Broncos' best AFC West record (3-3) since 2015.