Let's. Get. Weird.
Headed into Week 17, the 7-8 Oakland Raiders still have a chance at qualifying for the AFC playoffs, but in order for that to happen, the Silver and Black have to – first and foremost – handle business against the much-improved Denver Broncos, and then get a little help from their friends across the rest of the league.
This week's NFL Sunday is going to have a European soccer feel, and I cannot wait.
(For my non fútbol fans in the house, in big tournaments whenever there's an elimination scenario, all the teams impacted all kickoff at the same time)
That said, the Raiders would be well served to not do too much scoreboard watching and messing around in the playoff predicator; here are six things to watch this weekend at Empower Field.
1. Will Paul Guenther's defense keep the good times rolling?
I really have been encouraged by the Silver and Black's defense the past two weeks – even though one of those games resulted in a heart-wrenching loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
As of late, Guenther's group has been stout against the run – the Los Angeles Chargers totaled just 19 yards – and has really played an improved brand of football as of late.
This week, they'll be tasked with slowing down the Broncos and their twenty-eighth ranked offense, and while the numbers for the Denver offense don't necessarily blow you away, they're unquestionably a different group with Drew Lock at the helm.
The dynamic rookie has flashed moments of brilliance, but like any player in their first year in the NFL, he's far from a finished product, and if the Raiders can put pressure on him, the former Missouri Tiger will give the defense chances to make plays.
Paul Guenther and Jon Gruden are familiar with Lock from this year's Senior Bowl, so I'm excited to see what tricks they have up their sleeve to limit the Broncos' young signal-caller.
2. Will the Raiders' wideouts stay involved?
It seems like for weeks, we've been clamoring for the Silver and Black's wide receivers to get involved in the offense, and last weekend in Southern California the group responded to that call in a big way.
All told, the Raiders' wideouts finished the Week 16 matchup against the Bolts with 14 catches, good for 203 yards and a touchdown, and really showed what they can bring to the offense.
They'll have a tough test coming this week though, as the Denver secondary is once again one of the top units in the NFL, surrendering on average just over 215 yards per game through the air.
(Quick aside, but doesn't it seem like no matter how the team is as a whole, that the Broncos secondary is always just stacked?)
"Third and Renfrow" and Tyrell Williams made their impacts felt last weekend against the Chargers, and in order for the Raiders to finish 2019 on a high note, that has to be the case once again in Denver.
3. So, what's the word on Josh Jacobs?
Well, once again, it doesn't look like we'll see the Silver and Black's dynamic rookie come gameday.
After missing last week's game, Jacobs just wasn't able to get to a place this week where the coaching staff felt comfortable sending him out to work, but to be clear, it was the rookie's shoulder that proved to be the culprit, not the skin infection he dealt with earlier in the week.
Now, it's certainly bad news that No. 28 won't be in the mix against the Broncos, fans of the Silver and Black can take solace in the fact that once again DeAndré Washington and Jalen Richard will handle the bulk of the rushing duties in his absence.
Last week, the dynamic duo combined for 96 yards and a score and kept the offense as a whole in reasonable down and distances all game.
Particularly with a cold-weather game on the horizon – more on that in just a little bit – moving the ball on the ground will be paramount for success, and I'm excited to see what D. Wash and Jalen do with their chances.
4. How does the offensive line fare?
There was a ton of good that came from last week's win over the Chargers, but one group who probably wished they had a better day at the office was the Silver and Black's offensive line.
While the Raiders did fly back north with a W, the big fellas up front uncharacteristically surrendered a trio of sacks, and while those takedowns behind the line of scrimmage didn't hinder the offense too bad, I'm sure Tom Cable's group wants to put together a more complete game this Sunday.
While Von Miller is having his lowest sack output season since 2013, the eight-time Pro Bowler is still, ya know, Von Miller, and capable of taking over a game at a moment's notice.
Once again, the Raiders will be without the services of Trent Brown and Richie Incognito up front, so keep an eye on both David Sharpe and Denzelle Good to see how they handle Miller and the Denver pass rush.
If the big boys can give Derek Carr time to operate, I like the Raiders' chances.
5. Let's keep an eye on the thermostat
It's such a tired storyline that I almost hate to bring it up, but, shocker, it's going to be cold in Denver this weekend.
When the team lands Saturday night, there's snow in the forecast, but as of now – and you all know my feelings about weather forecasts – it's supposed to be clear Sunday afternoon with a high of 37 degrees.
So, yeah, it's going to be cold.
We've all read time and time again this year about the Silver and Black's collective struggles in the cold, but a win against a division foe, in a matchup the team absolutely need would go a long way in quieting those critiques.
6. Scoreboard watch
Look, the players at Empower Field won't be watching the scoreboard Sunday afternoon, but I guarantee you that I will be.
Let's not forget that the Raiders still have an outside chance to sneak into the AFC playoffs, but in order for that to happen, they have to handle their own business, and then get a little bit of help from their friends.
In that spirit, go Ravens, Texans, Colts, Bears, Lions, Chargers, and Patriots.
Let's get funky this weekend…. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:25 pm PT.
As the Silver and Black prepare for their final regular-season game against the Denver Broncos, take a look back at their past matchups through the years.