Denver Broncos (7-7, 7-7 ATS) at Las Vegas Raiders (7-7, 5-9), 4:25 p.m.
Brolley’s Broncos Stats and Trends
The Broncos are 7-1 toward unders in their last eight games.
Javonte Williams edged out Melvin Gordon in snap share (59% to 41%), touches (19 to 16), scrimmage yards (81 to 61), and routes (18 to 10) in a late negative gamescript against the Bengals last week. Javonte has hovered just below 60% of the snaps in three of his last four games with Gordon in the lineup with the one exception being in Denver’s four-score victory over Detroit in Week 14. The Broncos enter as one-point road favorites against the Raiders so the gamescript is setting up to slightly favor Javonte once again this week. Javonte posted 11/53 rushing and 3/15 receiving and Gordon totaled 10/50 rushing and 3/23 receiving in this matchup in mid-October.
Drew Lock Lock is the next man up in Week 16 in this run-heavy offense with Teddy Bridgewater out with a concussion. He stepped into the lineup in the third quarter last week and he completed 6/12 passes for 88 yards (7.3 YPA) and one TD against the Bengals. Lock has plenty of passing weapons at his disposal, but he averaged 6.6 YPA with 23 TDs and 18 INTs over 18 career starts — he led the NFL in INTs last season. Teddy had his best game of the season in this matchup two months ago, hanging 334/3 passing with three INTs.
Denver’s passing game has been completely irrelevant for fantasy in recent weeks, and Jerry Jeudy is the latest player to be washed under, joining the likes of Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and Noah Fant before him. He failed to secure any of his four targets in Denver’s 10-point outing against the Bengals in Week 15, and this passing attack could rest on the shoulders of Lock moving forward. Jeudy is averaging 3.1/51.0 receiving on 7.1 targets per game with two TDs in 15 career contests with Lock leading Denver’s offense. Patrick scored against the Raiders last week while Sutton saw his most targets (7) in a game since Week 6. Sutton and Patrick each scored in this matchup in mid-October while Jeudy was out of the lineup. The Raiders are giving up the fifth-fewest FPG (30.0) to WRs this season.
Noah Fant reached double-digit FP last week for just the second time since Week 6 against the Raiders, which was also the last time he scored a touchdown. He had by far his best game of the season against Las Vegas, posting 9/97/1 receiving. It’s notable that Albert Okwuegbunam missed that contest back in Week 6 because he’s been a real thorn in the side for Fant. They’ve been much friendlier to TEs, giving up the fourth-most FPG (16.7) to the position.
Brolley’s Raiders Stats and Trends
The Raiders knocked off the Broncos 34-24 as five-point road favorites back in mid-October in a game totaled at 45 points.
Las Vegas has scored 16 or fewer points in six of its last seven games.
Josh Jacobs found himself back down around a 65% snap share last week with Peyton Barber (19%) and Jalen Richard (16%) getting opportunities behind him. Jacobs finished with 15/52 rushing and 3/42 receiving. Jacobs has averaged more than 4.0 YPC in just three of his 11 games this season, but at least he has 70+ scrimmage yards in four straight contests. Jacobs posted 17/82/1 scrimmage in this matchup two months ago and Kenyan Drake added 6/73/2 scrimmage in that contest.
Derek Carr has scored 12 FP in three straight games without Darren Waller in the lineup with the Raiders scoring a combined 40 points in that stretch. Carr has accounted for one or fewer TD passes in five straight games after hitting two TDs in seven of his first nine contests. Carr averaged 12.6 YPA and he posted 341/2 passing against the Broncos back in mid-October when he had Henry Ruggs and Waller at his disposal.
Hunter Renfrow’s three-game run with 100+ yards and 8+ catches was snapped last week with just 3/32 receiving on five targets against the Browns. His target share dipped to 14% last week after sitting at 29% in Weeks 12-14, but he’s still the go-to receiver if Waller misses again this week. Renfrow posted just 3/36 receiving on five targets in this matchup two months ago when Ruggs and Waller were in the lineup.
Darren Waller is still dealing with knee/back issues this week so it could be another Foster Moreau week. He finally came through with season-highs in targets (9), catches (7), and yards (65) in Las Vegas’ win over the Browns. He totaled just 4/47 receiving on nine targets in his two starts since Waller left the lineup in Weeks 13-14. Waller caught all five of his targets for 59 yards when these teams met in mid-October.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 30.3 (28th)
Plays per game: 63.7 (17th)
Pass: 53.2% (28th) | Run: 46.8% (5th)
Pace: 28.1 (15th)
Plays per game: 60.6 (26th)
Pass: 68.6% (2nd) | Run: 31.4% (31st)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
With Drew Lock back under center, I’m thinking we’re going to see an even more conservative approach from the Broncos offense here. Denver has been trending slower and more run-heavy as of late and this week’s plan should be no different. Over the last eight weeks, the Broncos are top-8 in run rate in all game situations (close games, when trailing and when leading) and now catch a Raiders run defense that has gotten tuned up all year long.
Meanwhile, the Raiders offensive collapse has been a drastic one as they’ve been held under 17 points in six of their last 7 games. Their red-zone efficiency continues to be absolutely awful and the main reason for their scoring drought. Over the last eight weeks, Vegas has scored a TD on just 36% of their red-zone possessions – by far a league-low. Now, they have the unfortunate task of facing a stingy Broncos defense that is limiting their opponents to a TD on just 43% of RZ possessions. Only the Patriots (40%) are better.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
I get it, for the most part, Drew Lock has not been good at football during his NFL career. However – and some might remember me beating this detail to death in the past, he is good at one thing, and by good… I really mean he is among the very best in the NFL. If, while playing Madden on your PS4/5 or XBox One/S/X, you decided you wanted to play a game using the Broncos with Lock as your starting QB, and devoted some time toward selecting a defense that would present the best matchup to his skillset, one team stands out above all others. In addition to his cannon for a right arm, the reason Lock drew – pun intended – NFL interest is due to his utter dominance of Cover 3. And no defense in the league uses a higher rate of Cover 3 than the Las Vegas Raiders.
The receiver that would’ve benefited the most from Lock leading the offense would be Noah Fant. Teddy Bridgewater has played poorly against Cover 3 during his career. Even after playing 13 games this season out of his three-year career with Bridgewater under center, the work Fant put in against Cover 3 the last two seasons still shine bright. He’s created 0.44 FP/Rt (sixth-most), 1.99 YPRR (10th-most), and he’s drawing 25% of the targets (fifth-most) when defenses put a Cover 3 on the field. On 26% of his career routes, Fant has tracked down 35% of his catches, 35% of his yardage, and 33% of his TDs against Cover 3. Las Vegas has stood aside to allow TEs to collect 15.1 FPG (fourth-most) this season. As with Lock, the Week 16 opportunity for Fant could not be better.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Broncos are starting Drew Lock this week, and Wes outlined above why he likes him. Still, from a season-long perspective, he’s about near the bottom of the list of QBs you’d want to play, and given how much this receiving corps has struggled, it’s hard to play WR Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.
However, I’d be willing to make an exception for Jeudy this week, with Raider slot CB Nate Hobbs on the COVID list.
Here’s Scott Barrett from Start/Sit on this TE situation, which has been a headache because Noah Fant is splitting routes and targets:
Despite what is objectively a great matchup against a Raiders defense that has been bludgeoned by TEs all year, I don’t think Fant fits the bill as a good streamer this week. Fant is actually splitting targets with Albert Okwuegbunam over the last three weeks, as Fant has 15 looks while Albert O has 14. Especially with the unruly Drew Lock under center, I’d look elsewhere if you need a TE streamer (like Cole Kmet!).
It’s tough, because Wes does like Fant’s matchup. You’re probably begging for a TD if you stream him.
The Bronco backfield is also once again an even split now that Melvin Gordon is back, with Javonte Williams. Over that span — Williams: 30 carries, 6 targets, 55% snap rate. Gordon: 39 carries, 1 target, 45% snap rate. The silver-lining is that Williams (34) has run more routes than Gordon (19) over the last two weeks. Both are RB2s.
The big question for the Raiders is if they’ll be able to get WR Hunter Renfrow more involved this week after a quiet game last Saturday. The issue is he’ll be facing off with slot CB Bryce Callahan, one of the best in the entire game. Callahan limited Renfrow to a 3/36/0 line in Week 6.
The Raiders lack quality receiving options with TE Darren Waller still hurt and WR Zay Jones dealing with a toe injury this week. I still consider Renfrow a WR2 because of potential volume, but last week was a total stinker and the Callahan matchup scares me.
The good news in the Raiders’ backfield? Josh Jacobs is finally involved in the passing game and is easily setting career-highs in receptions (3.9) and yards (27) per game. The bad news? Jacobs is averaging just 3.7 YPC. Vegas’ offensive line isn’t helping Jacobs out much, though — they rank 21st in yards before contact.