LAS VEGAS — Throughout the offseason, Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett spoke about his key priorities for the Broncos.
The team. The ball. The West.
On Sunday, the Broncos will get their first opportunity to earn an AFC West win in their chase to earn their first division title since 2015.
As they take on the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium, they'll aim to snap several streaks. They'll look for their first road win against the Raiders since 2015 and their first overall win against Las Vegas since 2019.
"That's the past, this is the now," Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said. "I just know what we're about to go out there and try to do. I know it's going to be a great game. I know that there is a rivalry between these two teams. I am happy to be part of it, and I think it's going to be a fun."
As the Broncos look to earn their first road win of the season and their third consecutive victory, these are the questions that will decide if Denver can find a way to beat the Raiders.
WILL THE BRONCOS' OFFENSE WIN IN THE RED ZONE?
The Broncos had just one red-zone trip in Week 3, but they made the most of it. In a critical moment, Denver scored a touchdown in its one red-zone trip to earn a win over the 49ers.
As they approach their matchup with the Raiders, the Broncos will need to continue that success.
Denver has scored on just one of its seven red-zone trips, but they could have an opportunity to find success against the Raiders; Las Vegas has allowed touchdowns on 80 percent of its opponents' red-zone possessions.
"I think that the Raiders are a very good football team," Hackett said. "I think that they have a really good scheme down in the red zone. I think that sometimes things happen [and] they don't click, whether it be stopping them or getting in the end zone. For us, we just want to do what is best for this game, we want to be sure to get the matchups that we can and be able to get the ball in the end zone. I think both groups — I think we're better than we [have shown, and] I think they're better than they [have shown]. I think [we are] both really two good teams."
If the Broncos are to knock off the Raiders, they'll need to be efficient inside the 20-yard line — and they should have that chance on Sunday. To succeed, though, the Broncos must cut down on unforced errors.
"We have yet to really turn it on," Hackett said of the offense. "Right now, it's a lot of self-inflicted wounds. I think that's the positive thing. I think it's about us as a group. It's about me as a play caller, first and foremost, and then getting Russell [Wilson] in a rhythm, getting the running backs in a rhythm and everybody in a rhythm to be efficient so we can get explosive plays."
CAN PAT SURTAIN II HOLD HIS OWN VS. DAVANTE ADAMS?
The Broncos' defense faces a stiff test on Sunday, as the Raiders have one of the best receivers in the game.
Davante Adams has earned first-team All-Pro honors in each of the last two seasons, and he is the only receiver in the NFL this season to record a touchdown in all three games. Adams started strong in his first season with the Raiders, as he posted 10 catches for 141 yards in Week 1. Over the last two weeks, though, Adams has recorded just seven receptions for 48 yards.
"He's hard to cover," Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero said. "He's got size, he can go up for the ball, and he can in-and-out you. He can do all of things that an elite receiver can do and [is] a tough challenge."
If the Broncos can limit Adams during the game, the Raiders will have fewer offensive options in a contest from which wide receiver Hunter Renfrow has been ruled out.
Evero didn't reveal whether cornerback Pat Surtain II would follow Adams throughout the game, but Surtain has proven himself capable of limiting top receivers early this season. Surtain did not allow a catch on six targets in Week 3, and he's allowed just 45 yards on 14 targets this season, according to Pro Football Focus. His ability to contain Adams could go a long way in determining whether the Broncos can earn a win.
Surtain, though, won't be the only one charged with slowing the Raiders. Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory will look to get pressure on Derek Carr, and the Josey Jewell and Co. will try to slow down running back Josh Jacobs. Against a talented Raiders offense, Denver's defense will look to give the Broncos an edge.
ARE THE BRONCOS READY FOR A DESPERATE RAIDERS TEAM?
It's early in the year, but the Raiders' season will be on the line on Sunday.
Since 1990, only one team that has started 0-4 has made the playoffs, and that came in 2018 as the Texans started off slow before rallying to win the AFC South. At 0-3, the Raiders face a game that could determine the fate of their season.
As such, the Broncos must expect a desperate Raiders team that will have their entire focus on saving their season.
"Coach earlier said they're like a wounded dog," Chubb said. "When you back a wounded dog up, they come out fighting. We're not taking them for granted at all. We know that 0-3, that's just what paper says. We see what they did on film. They're No. 2 in explosive plays when it comes to the pass. They're putting up 21 points per game. So it's going to be a challenge for us still. We've got to go out there and execute."
The Broncos have rallied in each of the last two weeks for wins, but they'll need to be ready from the opening kickoff against the Raiders. Carr and Co. have averaged 15 points in the first half over the last two games, and that number has dropped to 7.5 points in the second half. Denver's second-half defense has been stellar in 2022 — the unit has allowed six total points in the second half of games this season — but if the Raiders score early, the Broncos' offense must be ready to keep pace.
Denver's offense scored 13 points in the first half of a Week 1 loss at Seattle, but the unit has mustered just nine points in the first half in the two games since. If the Broncos' offense can get back to the success it found in Week 1, that should put the pressure on the Raiders.
And as the Raiders face a must-win scenario, that could be the edge the Broncos need.
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