The Denver Broncos have lost their season and the best they can do is spoil the Oakland Raiders’ Christmas and win their 500th all-time game.
Well, the Denver Broncos’ season is over, in essence. It’s almost an absolute certainty that they will have a new coach by no later than the advent of 2019. It is disappointing to write a game preview like this but there are 16 games in a season so I plow through.
Anyway, the Broncos have some nice pieces in place. You cannot blame injuries, but the injuries the Broncos have had have been at key positions.
Star cornerback Chris Harris, who is of course out for the season, opined with his assessment of the situation.
In the midst of this lost season, where 8-8 is the best they can do, that offers little solace to the Broncos at this time.
Still, this is a game against the hated Oakland Raiders and, for all intents and purposes, likely the last game in history at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, or “the Black Hole.” Also, a win Monday night would be the Broncos’ 500th all-time victory. If they can reach this plateau, they would become the 14th NFL team to do so.
It would, in its own way, be as historic for the Broncos to win this game, as it was to win Super Bowl 50.
The end of an era in sports is always fascinating, especially since I have been appointed as a historian in my community.
Therefore, these aforementioned components of Monday night’s matchup fascinates me. Sadly, they are the only such components that do.
In the estimation of Broncos tackle Garett Bolles, this is something that should be celebrated.
Speaking of Monday Night Football, this is the Broncos’ 73rd appearance on the program in franchise history. It is also the 27th consecutive season the Broncos have appeared on Monday Night Football. Since 1992 (which was an 8-8 season for the Broncos), Denver has made at least one appearance a season on the program.
This is also the 11th time in history the Broncos have played on Christmas Eve, including the third consecutive year they have played on that day.
The Broncos are 4-6 all-time on Christmas Eve and last won on this day in 2006 with a 24-23 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Broncos have played the Raiders twice on Christmas Eve and have won each time against the Silver & Black.
Broncos signal-caller Case Keenum, all things told, looks good on paper. Keenum has completed 62.1 percent of his passes this season for 3,396 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
However, when the Broncos needed him to play at his best in a do-or-die game against Cleveland December 15, he fell short of expectations.
The fact that head coach Vance Joseph wanted him to come out and take chances downfield and that he failed in so doing tells me all I need to know.
When Keenum served as a caretaker, he didn’t turn the ball over. Nevertheless, the season-ending injury incurred by star receiver Emmanuel Sanders (921 scrimmage yards and five total touchdowns lost) made the Broncos easier to defend.
Since Sanders’ injury, rising star tailback Phillip Lindsay (1,221 scrimmage yards on the season) has only 95 scrimmage yards combined in losses to San Francisco and Cleveland. Lindsay, however, was named as a starter in the Pro Bowl last week. Here’s his thoughts on the matter.
Lindsay is also only nine rushing yards short of 1,000 yards on the season. He should reach this Monday. When he does, he will be only the third undrafted rookie in history to reach this plateau, joining Dominic Rhodes of the Indianapolis Colts in 2001 and LeGarrette Blount of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010.
To be fair, receiver Tim Patrick has been highly reliable since that time as well. He has 12 of his 16 receptions on the season since the San Francisco game. They have come on 18 targets as well.
Patrick has stepped his game up and that’s what everyone else is going to have to do. Sanders, as you know, is likely out for the start of 2019 before he reaches unrestricted free agency in 2020.
I still believe receiver Courtland Sutton has star potential but he has been riddled with several nagging injuries himself. As of Friday practice, Sutton (4th in the NFL at 17.5 yards per reception) was limited at practice because of quadriceps issues.
This is life in the NFL. It is quite possible that the Broncos could be 11-5 if they make but limited changes next season. As I alluded to earlier, injuries are not an excuse for poor performance. They are, however, an explanation.
Those who are called upon in someone else’s stead have to play better. In the NFL, your next opportunity as a reserve is right around the corner.
It is definitely fair at this juncture to lambaste Joseph. There comes a time when I realize I cannot defend what has been indefensible.
I accredit Mike Rice of Broncos Radio, who handles the post-game call-in show responsibilities weekly during the season.
The fact remains that this is the third season in a row the Broncos will have failed to make the postseason. There has to be a breath of fresh air granted unto the organization. There will be more discussion of this moving forward in the off-season.
The Broncos are +9 in turnover margin (tied for 4th in the NFL) and have taken great care of the football, having lost only three fumbles on the season.
The scoring defense has also markedly improved. The Broncos are 10th in the NFL at only giving up 21.4 points per game and their 15 interceptions are tied for fifth in the NFL.
The Broncos are also fifth in the NFL in sacks at 42 with outside linebacker Von Miller tied for second in the NFL in sacks with 14.5. His protege, fellow outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, is tied for eighth in the NFL with 12 sacks. Miller, with 98 career sacks, has a 9-game sack streak going. He needs one sack against the Raiders to surpass former Pittsburgh Steelers legend Joey Porter, for 33rd place on the NFL’s all-time sack list.
With that said, I erroneously thought the Broncos improving in forcing turnovers would change their season around. If the team executed properly, this would be true but that’s obviously why Joseph and perhaps Keenum as well, have to go.
As for the Raiders, they are 3-11 and would like nothing more than to give the Broncos a loss for Christmas.
I still see some good in signal-caller Derek Carr. He is completing a career-best 68.3 percent of his passes in 2018. As you know, he completed 90.63 percent of his passes in a 22-20 loss to the Broncos back in Week 2 at Denver.
He has also tossed for 3,697 yards and 19 touchdowns with only 8 interceptions in 2018. The stats tell us that he is not the Raiders’ problem even though one of his star playmakers, Amari Cooper, was traded to the Dallas Cowboys this season.
However, a -6 turnover margin, an offense that ranks 14th or worse in every statistical category except passes intercepted, and a defense that is 15th or worse in every category has spelled their doom.
It would appear that head coach Jon Gruden has found his “Charlie Garner,” in versatile tailback Jalen Richard (797 scrimmage yards). Tight end Jared Cook (848 receiving yards, six touchdowns) has been a stalwart for the Raiders.
Cook is obviously having the best statistical season of his career, especially in the fascinating catch percentage stat from profootballreference.com. He is catching 67.7 percent of targets coming his way as you can see here.
The Broncos will be playing the Raiders for the 118th time in history, which dates back to 1960. They are 25-34 as the road team in the series. They last won at Oakland in 2015, a 16-10 victory.
Date:Monday, Dec.24, 2018
Start Time: 6:15 pm MST
Location: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
TV Info: ESPN (506sports.com for listings nationwide)
Announcers: Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Jason Witten (booth analyst), Booger McFarland (sideline analyst), Lisa Salters (sidelines)
Our friends from Broncos Brasil provided the injury report for this game. Therefore a sincere “obrigado” to them from the Bradfather.
Per weather.com, the Broncos will have to be like the late legendary singer Eddie Rabbit and love a rainy night. The forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of rainstorms Monday night.
This is your game thread. Tell your friends about us so we can get some new followers for Christmas. GO BRONCOS!!!