DENVER — There's still plenty on the line.
The Broncos' season has not gone according to plan, and Denver (3-6) is three games back of .500 after a Week 10 loss to the Titans.
But as the Raiders head to Denver for the second meeting of the season, the Broncos still have motivation to get a win.
After a disappointing stretch, the Broncos have an opportunity to end a five-game losing streak to the Raiders and improve upon a stretch in which they have lost 11 of their last 12 division games.
In the Broncos' first home game in a month, they'll also aim to keep their slight playoff hopes alive.
Even in a matchup between two struggling teams, no one ever wants to lose to a division rival.
"This has been one of the greatest rivalries in football for forever, I think, for 60[-plus] years," Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said. "I know how much it means to the fans and the players in that room. It's Raiders week.
"… We want to get a win, but it's something even more inspiring when you're playing the Raiders because of how great this rivalry is. … It's great for our game to have these kinds of rivalries. It's great to see that. It doesn't matter what your record is. It's going to be a great game."
These are the questions that will decide if the Broncos can snap their skid against the Raiders:
CAN THE BRONCOS SLOW MAXX CROSBY?
Earlier this week, Hackett suggested that in a matchup between two teams with a combined 11 one-score losses, one of the teams would have to win. That's true of the matchup between the Raiders' pass rush and the Broncos' offensive line, as well.
Las Vegas has recorded just 10 sacks through nine games, which ranks last in the NFL. The Broncos' battered offensive line, meanwhile, has allowed the sixth-most sacks in the league.
As the Broncos try to keep Russell Wilson upright with a patchwork offensive line, their main task will be to slow Maxx Crosby. The 2021 Pro Bowler has seven of the Raiders' sacks this year; no other player has more than one. Chandler Jones, one of the Raiders' top free-agent additions, has just half a sack in nine games.
The Broncos, though, don't have their desired personnel to stop Crosby, who sacked Wilson twice in Week 4 and seemed to single-handedly ruin the Broncos' third-quarter efforts.
Billy Turner became the latest offensive lineman to head to injured reserve, while Cam Fleming, Graham Glasgow and Tom Compton are all questionable for Sunday's game. Denver struggled against the Titans in pass protection — allowing six sacks — and things didn't get easier when rookie Luke Wattenberg was forced to enter the game for an injured Glasgow.
The Broncos, of course, would help their pass protection if they can find a more consistent running game and play-action attack.
As Wilson showed against the Raiders in Week 4, he was efficient when he had time to scan the field and deliver the ball. If the Broncos can hold up in protection, he should be able to succeed again.
WILL THE BRONCOS CARRY OVER THEIR SUCCESS AGAINST THE RUN?
The Broncos' defense has been spectacular in 2022 — and that's why their Week 4 matchup with the Raiders stands out.
In eight of their nine games, the Broncos have allowed fewer than 20 points, and they possess the league's best scoring defense.
Against the Raiders, though, the Broncos gave up 32 points and struggled to contain the Las Vegas rushing attack. Former first-round pick Josh Jacobs seemingly saves his best football for when he plays the Broncos. In six games against Denver, Jacobs has averaged 4.71 yards per carry, 102 yards per game and 1.5 touchdowns per game. In his career against all other teams, Jacobs averages just 4.33 yards per carry, 71.7 yards per game and 0.57 touchdowns per game.
In the Week 4 meeting, Jacobs carried the ball 28 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns — and he was critical on a late Raiders drive that took more than five minutes off the clock and salted the game away.
The Broncos, though, showed signs in Week 10 that their rushing defense has improved. Denver entered a matchup with Derrick Henry and the Titans allowing 122.6 rushing yards per game, which ranked 21st in the NFL. Denver then held Henry to fewer than 60 yards and no touchdowns, and the team's rushing defense jumped to 13th in the league ahead of this week's matchup.
Denver swarmed to the ball in Tennessee, and they'll need to do the same against Jacobs. If the Broncos can hold the physical runner in check, they should force the Raiders into third-and-longs — which won't be easy to convert without many of their top weapons in the passing game.
CAN PAT SURTAIN II REPLICATE HIS WEEK 4 PERFORMANCE?
The Raiders entered the season with a passing attack that was expected to be among the most dangerous in the NFL. In Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas possessed a slew of weapons for Derek Carr to target. But the three pass catchers have played few snaps together this season, and Adams will be the only one who could possibly be on the field on Sunday. Waller and Renfrow are both on injured reserve, and Adams is questionable after being limited this week with an injury to his abdomen.
That raises the stakes of the matchup between Adams and cornerback Pat Surtain II, who battled in Week 4. Adams caught nine passes for 101 yards in that game, but he was held to just four catches for 46 yards with Surtain in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. Surtain followed Adams for 71 percent of his routes, and he'll seemingly be called upon to hold Adams in check again.
While Surtain has not been tested by many teams this season, Carr and the Raiders were not afraid to look Surtain's way in the first matchup of the year.
"Without a doubt, I think it's going to be a great matchup," Hackett said. "We saw it last time that they went after it. [They are] two guys that I have so much respect for and are playing at an unbelievably high level right now. I think everybody is going to be excited to see those two guys go at it. I don't think that they're afraid to test him, and I don't think Pat is afraid to be tested. It'll be a fun matchup there."
With the exception of Adams and Jacobs, the Raiders seem to have a limited number of weapons. If Surtain can hold Adams in check, the Broncos' defense should be able to improve upon its Week 4 performance.
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