The Denver Broncos open the season on the road against their division rivals, the Oakland Raiders. Both teams are looking to improve upon their disappointing 2018 seasons; a week one win would be a huge step in the right directions for both of these franchises. With both teams debuting a bevy of new players, what are some of the key match-ups that could end up deciding the fate of the game?
Broncos’ edge rushers vs. Raiders’ tackles
The Bronco’s defense boasts the best pass-rushing duo in the entire league. Preparing for the combination of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb keeps offensive coordinators up at night. Miller has played at an All-Pro level throughout his career and Chubb neared the rookie sack record last season, collecting 12 sacks in 2018.
Miller has terrorized the Raiders for years, and Chubb got off to a good start last season. This season should be no different as Oakland returns their young offensive lineman, Kolton Miller, at left tackle. Miller struggled as a starter during his rookie year in Oakland. If he doesn’t improve, Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense could struggle to move the ball.
This offseason, however, Oakland did sign offensive tackle Trent Brown to a massive contract. Brown is slotted in as the Raiders’ starting right tackle this year. The Raiders are hoping that Brown lives up to his hefty contract and provides Carr with more time in the pocket to let plays develop. This match-up could very well decide the game. If the Raiders can’t stop Miller and Chubb, Carr and the Raiders will have a very long Monday night.
Broncos’ secondary vs. Antonio Brown
There has been a lot of drama surrounding the Broncos’ secondary and Oakland wide receiver Antonio Brown. The Broncos’ and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. were having contract issues before the draft but luckily worked out a short term deal so Harris Jr. could stay with the team.
Brown, on the other hand, was cast off by the Pittsburgh Steelers as tensions grew in the Steelers locker room. Following Brown’s trade to the Raiders, he was M.I.A. for the majority of the offseason programs. It later came out that Brown had injured his feet in a cryo-chamber and was having a dispute with the NFL over the use of his preferred helmet. All of that is in the past now, and Brown will make his Oakland debut on Monday night. Needless to say, the Bronco’s talented secondary will have their hands full.
Brown remains one of the most talented players in the NFL. His crazy speed and crafty route-running have aided his historic career, potentially Hall of Fame career. If Denver wants a chance to win, they will have to minimize Brown’s impact on the field… at least to a degree. He is still as dangerous a player as ever.
Fans should expect to see a lot of Harris Jr. on Brown. He is the Broncos’ most talented player in the back end of the defense and gives Denver the best chance of stopping the All-Pro receiver. Safety duo Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons will also likely be in on the covering of Brown. Simmons is a player that I see as a potential breakout player in 2019, and that could very well start Week 1. If the pass rush can get home and the Broncos’ secondary can keep up with Brown, Denver looks to be in a very favorable position to win this game.
Phillip Lindsay vs. Raiders’ defense
Is there a must-watch match-up on offense, you ask? Well for Denver, it all starts with Phillip Lindsay and the run game. Lindsay busted out of the gates last season as a rookie, rushing for over 1,000 yards. Denver will debut two new offensive linemen in hopes to bolster the run game even further.
Dalton Risner, drafted in the second round of the 2019 draft, is one of those linemen. Risner has been praised for his nastiness in the run game and excellent technique in pass protection. Risner looks to be the starting left guard for the Broncos and will slide in next to young franchise left tackle, Garrett Bolles. Free-agent acquisition Ja’Wuan James also figures to aid the Lindsay and the run game. The Oakland defensive line is still very young. If Denver can win in the trenches early and often, Lindsay could tire out this Oakland defense, leaving the Denver defense fresh.
One of Oakland’s most significant weaknesses is their linebackers. They will start Tahir Whitehead and Vontaze Burfict, giving the speedy Lindsay the upper hand getting to the edge. This may be a game that Lindsay breaks a big one. Lindsay against versus the Raiders defense will be a must-watch match-up, and one Denver hopes will favor Lindsay.
Daniel Griffis is a writer covering the Denver Broncos for PFN. You can find him on twitter at @DraftWildcard.