Numbers matter. Yes, the game is played out on the field — not on paper — but a quick look at the statistical profile of a team can show tendencies, strengths and weaknesses that shine some light on what can be expected when the teams take the field. This series is an examination of how the Broncos can gain an advantage against their opponent from a statistical perspective.
Here are the numbers that matter in this Week 16 matchup against the Raiders.
42.0 and 48.0
The Broncos have consistently been able to pressure opposing quarterbacks this season, as their 42.0 sacks are sixth-most in the NFL. And they should have the opportunity to continue that success against a Raiders team that has allowed 48.0 sacks this season, third-most in the league.
The first time these teams met, back in Week 2, though, the Broncos only registered one sack, and Derek Carr completed 29-of-32 passes for 288 yards. Even though the Broncos ultimately won 20-19, they’ll want to make things tougher on Carr this time around.
Some injuries along the offensive line may make that task a little bit easier on Monday night. The Raiders have been without tackle Donald Penn for several weeks, and guard Kelechi Osemele missed last week’s game with a toe injury. Guard Gabe Jackson was placed on IR this week.
As a result, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb — whose 26.5 sacks are the most among teammate duos — may have opportunities to get to Carr and swing the contest in the visiting team’s favor with a big play or two on Monday night.
6.1 and 1.9
In the Broncos’ first 12 games, Phillip Lindsay averaged a league-leading 6.1 yards per carry. In the last two games, though, he has averaged just 1.9 as opposing defenses have keyed on stopping the University of Colorado product.
It’s no secret that getting the running game going is a big part of the Broncos’ game plan, and they have struggled in that area over the past couple of weeks.
“They were going eight in the box,” said Lindsay after the Browns limited him to 24 rushing yards. “You all see it. Everybody is there. It’s hard when you have eight in the box. We’ve got to come up with different things, and that comes down to me, and that comes down to the whole offense.”
No team has given up more rushing yards than the Raiders this season, so Lindsay may have some opportunities to get back to his normal numbers. He had 107 rushing yards against the Raiders in Week 2.
114.0 and 6.84
The Raiders have struggled to get to the quarterback all year. Their 12 sacks rank last by a wide margin — the Dolphins are second-to-last with 24 sacks.
When the Raiders do bring extra pressure to try to increase that sack total, the Broncos might have opportunities to take advantage. Opposing quarterbacks own a quarterback rating of 114.0 when the Raiders blitz, which is the fourth-highest mark in in the league. After Case Keenum was sacked twice last week — including one on fourth-and-10 that effectively ended the game — the Broncos will need to improve in this area, and a struggling Raiders pass rush could provide the perfect opportunity.
Furthermore, the Raiders are struggling once receivers get the ball in their hands. No team allows more yards after the catch than the Raiders, who allow 6.84 YAC per reception. If Keenum can get the ball into his playmakers’ hands with some space for them to operate, the Broncos might be able to find success down the field.
“There’s a trust level that’s growing there,” Keenum said Thursday. “It’s been there, but it’s continuing to grow. I felt really comfortable in the pocket this week. Those guys are doing a good job of getting open and I felt [Offensive Coordinator] Bill [Musgrave] was calling some good plays. We got rolling there, passing the ball. I’m very comfortable with those guys, out of all of the positions.”
The Broncos have been at their best when they have forced turnovers and the offense has taken advantage. During the Broncos’ three-game winning streak against the Chargers, Steelers and Bengals, the Broncos had 38 combined points off turnovers.
“I think we’ve been really good at that when we’re playing winning ball: playing some complementary football — takeaways [and] scores,” Keenum said after the victory over the Bengals. “That can shift the tide in games when you’re behind and you’re trying to come from behind or when you’re ahead and trying to bury some opponents.”
In the losses to the 49ers and Browns, though, the Broncos have managed just a Brandon McManus field goal off three forced turnovers.
Overall, the Broncos have a plus-48 point differential when it comes to points off turnovers. That’s the third-best mark in the league behind only the Texans and the Bears. Denver could look to improve that mark on Monday night against a team that’s had some turnover issues. The Raiders rank tied for 29th in points off turnover differential, at negative-46. And even though Derek Carr has gone a franchise-record 292 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception, he has lost a fumble in each of the last two games.
There could be opportunities for pass rushers Miller or Chubb or even a less-heralded name like Adam Gotsis, who had a strip-sack against the Browns, to make a game-changing play in the national spotlight of “Monday Night Football.”