ENGLEWOOD – What’s scary is how easy it looks for a team that finished 5-11 last season.
The Broncos looked good – not perfect, but good -- in winning their opener last week against the Seattle Seahawks. The Oakland Raiders crumbled at home in the second half against the Los Angeles Rams. And this was after Raiders’ management sent the message it was surrendering hope for the 2018 season by trading away its best player, pass rusher Khalil Mack.
Consequently, the Broncos are listed as a 6 ½-point favorite by Westgate Superbook for their game Sunday afternoon against the Raiders at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
We all agree the Broncos are improved this year. Are they ready for such lofty expectations so early in the season?
Last week’s Klis List told you the No. 1 mismatch was the Broncos’ Von Miller against Seattle’s Germain Ifedi.
Here is this week’s Klis List of factors that will be key for the Broncos to defeat the Raiders. You can thank me later.
1. No more than one turnover
Last week, Broncos quarterback Case Keenum threw three interceptions. That’s enough for a while as he threw just seven interceptions in 481 pass attempts last season for Minnesota.
It would be difficult to expect the Broncos to suffer multiple turnovers and win back-to-back.
2. Run it
The Raiders are so beat up along the defensive front, they signed defensive tackle Johnathon Hankins off the street this week with plans on playing him.
The Broncos’ improved offensive line should have their way in the run game -- if not early, then eventually. The Broncos’ 1-2 rookie punch of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman combined for 30 carries and 142 yards in the opener against Seattle.
3. Chip Jared Cook
The Raiders’ tight end led NFL receivers last week with 180 yards. The Denver D allowed 105 yards receiving to Seattle rookie tight end Will Dissly. In the first half. This is a concern.
A Bronco defender like Bradley Chubb will have to give Cook a nudge before he releases off the line.
4. Stay back
The Broncos gave up a 51-yard touchdown pass in the opener to receiver Tyler Lockett, who was wide open on the play. The Denver secondary was vulnerable to the wide-open deep ball last year, too.
After Raiders quarterback Derek Carr mostly ignored his receivers last week – Jordy Nelson had three catches for 23 yards and Amari Cooper had one catch for 9 yards – while going up against Rams’ cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, don’t be surprised if he throws outside and deep to test the Broncos’ secondary in this one.
5. Stay calm, Marquette
King will try to deliver a punting performance against his former team worthy of showmanship.
Don’t be surprised if Raiders coach Jon Gruden calls for a sellout, 10-man block attempt at least once. King is athletic enough to handle it.
6. Stay hot, Emmanuel, Demaryius
Interceptions aside, Broncos quarterback Case Keenum threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns last week. Emmanuel Sanders had 10 catches for 135 yards with a touchdown and Demaryius Thomas had six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
The Raiders pass defense is susceptible without Mack applying the heat so Keenum should have time to throw downfield.
7. Stay hot, Von
Yes, Carr gets rid of the ball quick. Which is why Cook and running back Jalen Richard combined for 18 receptions last week.
But if the Broncos get ahead, Carr will have to try to throw the ball downfield. And that’s when it will be Miller Time. Von Miller had three sacks and two forced fumbles in the opener. With that kind of start, Miller is in position for a career-best season.
8. Gang tackle, Marshawn
Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch isn’t nearly the running back he was from 2011-14 with Seattle. But he can still carry a load to the goal line.
9. Match Raiders intensity
A Gruden-coached team will come in hungry after losing its opener. The Broncos can’t be sluggish and expect to be 2-0 come Sunday night.