Two teams are approaching this season with a fresh sense of hope and a chance to turn around their recent struggling franchises. The Denver Broncos will open their season by playing at the historic Black Hole in Oakland in the nightcap of Monday Night Football. This will be the final series opener played in Oakland with the Raiders’ future lying in Las Vegas starting in 2020.
There’s been a lot of changes for both sides as several debuts will occur on September 9. Looking first at the Broncos, the two most notable names are Joe Flacco and Vic Fangio. Anyone in the AFC West knows that Flacco brings a more experienced approach to a mediocre position for the Broncos. Even playing as one of the oldest veterans Quarterbacks in the league, Flacco didn’t start much during the preseason, meaning there could be some rust as he tries to gel with his new squad.
After four strong years as the Bears Defensive Coordinator, Fangio departed the Windy City for the Mile High City, becoming the Broncos’ new head coach. Fangio is one of the oldest to make his head coaching debut, but he’s got to like the defensive strength he can work with. Broncos Nation is eager to get back to their winning ways and compete in the AFC West once again.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have a new talent that’s been added to their roster in big part due to accumulating draft picks from trading Khalil Mack in 2018. Jon Gruden is hoping to have a more successful second year in his 10-year head coaching contract, finishing last season with an abysmal 4-12 record.
The Broncos may have lucked out as Antonio Brown was set to make his Raiders debut on Monday night. Issues led to his suspension, then Gruden reported he was going to play, then the Raiders brass threatened to withhold his guaranteed money. Broncos fans and players rode the rollercoaster that eventually ended on Sept. 7 with Brown getting released from Oakland and ending up far away in New England.
Derek Carr has shown bursts in his young NFL career with the Raiders, leading them to the postseason in 2016 before breaking his leg. Since, Carr hasn’t found the same success, and losing the skills Brown would’ve brought to Oakland certainly doesn’t help. Expect the Raiders to run the ball quite a bit as they only have three proven Wide Receivers on their depth chart and Hunter Renfrow is expected to make an impact during his rookie season.
Broncos offense hoping to prove themselves
While Flacco is new to the group, he’s got years of experience, and a Super Bowl ring to boot. The offensive playmakers for the Broncos offer a blend of experience with guys like Emmanuel Sanders a long-time veteran and Desean Hamilton, “Rolls” Royce Freeman and Noah Fant having been in the league two years or less. Having Sanders healthy this season is a major positive for the Broncos, and he’s already had a strong preseason to prove his worth, which is huge after tearing his ACL last December.
Freeman was hit or miss in the backfield last season, partly because then-rookie Phillip Lindsay exploded onto the scene. Don’t expect such a strong season performance from Lindsay since opponents can prepare more accordingly to shut him down. The importance of reliable Tight Ends can’t be overstated with the Broncos listing four on their depth chart. Jeff Heuerman leads the crew with five years of experience, followed by highly-touted rookie Noah Fant. Not seeing Fant right away wouldn’t be too shocking after suffering a minor injury during the preseason, though he’s not on the injury list.
Exciting defense to lead Broncos again
Broncos Nation knows how mediocre the past few seasons have been, but that’s not due to a lack of defense. Von Miller leads a vaunting unit, which also includes Bradley Chubb, Chris Harris Jr., Josey Jewell (rookie), and Derek Wolfe. The Broncos brass has high hopes that Jewell can live up to his hype, listing him as one of the top Inside Linebackers. Chubb put together a monstrous preseason already and is poised to take another step in his second year in the league. Miller has taken Chubb under his wing and acknowledged the strides he’s made going into this season, putting the AFC West on watch.
The most notable name on the Broncos’ report is Bryce Callahan, still dealing with a foot injury he suffered with the Chicago Bears late last season. Until he’s healthy, Callahan won’t be able to have as much impact for his new team, but once he’s back, it’ll have been a worthy signing. Another name on the injury report includes Todd Davis (Inside Linebacker) with a calf injury, listed as doubtful.
Broncos 31, Raiders 17