The Oakland Raiders (12-3) play the Denver Broncos (8-7) on Jan. 1 at 1:25 p.m. PST.
Denver has been eliminated from the playoffs after losing three consecutive games. The Broncos will take a look at the future during this game, per ESPN. This means that young players like rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch could see extensive playing time.
Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders can clinch an AFC West title with a win over Denver or a Kansas City Chiefs loss. That means a win could be the difference between Oakland playing as an AFC wild card team or receiving a first-round playoff bye. Not to mention, the Raiders can become the No. 1 seed in the AFC Conference with a loss by the New England Patriots.
Here are some things to expect during Sunday’s Week 17 game.
1. Matt McGloin Throws For More Than 200 Yards
The Raiders lost their franchise quarterback Derek Carr last week. He suffered a broken fibula versus the Colts.
Therefore, backup quarterback Matt McGloin will make his first start since 2013.
— Eddie Paskal (@EddiePaskal) December 27, 2016
Two hundred passing yards for McGloin may not seem like a bold prediction. However, McGloin is facing a Denver defense that allows only 187.2 passing yards per game, which is the fewest in the league.
It is also a bold prediction when you consider McGloin has not thrown for more than 200 yards since 2013. Now, he has better receiver weapons than 2013, including receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
Plus, the Raiders will probably look to run the ball a ton. This will open up deep passes down the field for McGloin.
2. The Raiders Rush For More Than 200 Rushing Yards
In the first meeting between these two teams this season, Oakland rushed 43 times for 218 yards.
Expect more of that this week. Do not forget that Raiders running back DeAndre Washington finished last week’s win with 99 rushing yards on 12 carries.
"It’s great to have DeAndré Washington out there…he’s really contributing."
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) December 30, 2016
Teammate Jalen Richard also rushed six times for 66 yards. Those two backs should repeat that success this week.
Denver gives up 135.2 rushing yards per game this season. That puts them at No. 29 in the league.
Expect Oakland to exploit that with their rushing game. Richard and Washington both found big running lanes last week. The Raiders will do that again, and they will rush for more than 200 yards as a team this week. Starter Latavius Murray should also have a bounce back game after Richard and Washington played well last week.
3. The Oakland Raiders Win The Sack Battle
The Denver Broncos did not allow a sack last week. However, they play Raiders edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin this week. Those two Raiders have combined for 18 sacks this season. Both should get one this week.
They face Denver offensive tackles Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung who have had their ups and downs this year. As a whole, the Denver offensive line has allowed 40 sacks this season, which ranks them as the fifth most per ESPN.
Sacks allowed/pass attempt (@NFL teams in 2016):
— Evert Geerlings (@E_Geerlings) December 30, 2016
On the other side, the Oakland offensive line is among the best at protecting the quarterback. Nonetheless, they faced a defense with Von Miller, who has 13.5 sacks this season. Still, they will be without veteran DeMarcus Ware who was sent to Injured Reserve this week.
The Oakland offensive line has three Pro Bowl starters, with tackle Donald Penn, center Rodney Hudson and guard Kelechi Osemele. Expect the entire unit to play inspired after losing Carr via a sack last week.
Oakland will get more sacks than they give up to Denver in Week 17.
4. The Denver Defense Scores A Touchdown
Again, Oakland faces a tough task this week. Their backup quarterback must face the No. 1 passing offense. Denver has also registered the third most sacks this season.
The Raiders offensive line and McGloin will rise to the occasion, but they will also make some mistakes on the road. Expect Denver’s defense to take a turnover for a score.
Granted, Oakland has only turned the ball over 11 times this year, per the Raiders’ Everett Geerlings. That is a franchise low, but that could mean the Raiders are overdue for some turnovers.
McGloin has 11 career interceptions, so he can make some questionable decisions. Denver corners Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib could get an opportunity to take an interception for a touchdown. Plus, Von miller could also create a big scoring play.
— NFL (@NFL) December 23, 2016
The Broncos offense will try to figure out their offense by cycling through quarterbacks Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian. Meanwhile, their defense will find a way to score versus the Raiders.
5. Oakland Wins Close
These AFC West divisional games are always close. The Denver Broncos are the defending champions and they are playing at home.
— AqibTalib21 (@AqibTalib21) December 21, 2016
However, the Raiders have come too far this season to lose this game. Even without their starting quarterback, Oakland finds a way to win this game for an injured Carr.
Oakland is too well coached to let this divisional title slip from their hands. They will stick to a gameplan focused on running the ball and defense. That should help them overcome a Broncos team, which is trying to figure out their future.
In the end, the Raiders running game will be the difference maker on the road. Denver will fail at sending their hated rivals home disappointed.
This is the 113th regular-season meeting between the Raiders and Broncos, according to UPI. Oakland leads the series, 61-49-2. The Raiders have won the last two series, including a 30-20 home victory over the Broncos on Nov. 6.
[Featured Image by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Images]