By Chad Bellin. The Oakland Raiders will close out their magical 2016 regular season in Denver, facing the division rival Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Raiders will move on to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and are still alive for a potential AFC West Division Championship and first round bye. The Super Bowl Champion Broncos will miss the playoffs, and face questions heading into the offseason, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
The Raiders lost star quarterback Derek Carr to a broken leg, and will need to rally around backup Matt McGloin. McGloin has starting experience, and should be able to run the Raiders’ attack. But the key for the Raiders will be on defense, keeping the Broncos out of the end zone and getting off the field on third down. If the Raiders keep the score low, they have a chance on the road.
For the Broncos, the game will be won on offense. The vaunted Broncos defense should be up to the challenge of stopping McGloin and the Raiders. But the Broncos offense – and the quarterbacks in particular, must play well and make big plays. Do the Broncos have any fight left after a disappointing season?
The Raiders have everything to play for, and will be inspired. The Broncos are playing for pride, but also for next season. On Sunday, the Raiders will start 2017 with another win.
Raiders 17 | Broncos 13
For those still alive in their fantasy football leagues, Week 17 represents a championship berth or, perhaps, the “consolation bracket championship.” Whatever your reason for still caring about the 2016 fantasy football season as we head into 2017, the fantasy starts in this game are few.
The closest thing to a fantasy must-start might be the Broncos DST. Led by the likes of Von Miller and Aqib Talib, the Broncos are among the league leaders in several categories, including important metrics like points allowed and yards allowed. While the Raiders have a powerful offense, losing Carr cannot be overlooked. A rusty McGloin could be prone to mistakes and turnovers.
The Raiders DST is worth a start this week. With the Broncos planning a heavy dose of Paxton Lynch, the opportunistic Raiders squad will have their opportunity and should have a top ten finish.
A bonus start is K Sebastian Janikowski, as he will have the benefit of opportunity and extended range.
While the must-starts are thin, there are plenty of fantasy players to consider based on your lineup situation. At the top of that list is Devontae Booker. Booker is still healthy and is versatile enough to stay on the field for all three downs. Last week, he saw plenty of action, and that will continue against the Raiders mediocre rush defense. However, Booker hasn’t blown anyone away. View him as a flex play who can get you 8 or 9 points in deeper PPR leagues.
For the Raiders, the running back situation is murky these days. Latavius Murray has been a touchdown-dependent “lead” running back all season, but has been anything but an RB1 for your fantasy team most weeks. DeAndre Washington had an amazing 99-yard, 2 touchdown performance last week but has been absent most of the season. Jalen Richard has shown flashes of brilliance (like last week against the Colts) between bouts of anonymity. If the Broncos have a defensive weakness, it’s against the run. The Raiders line (and all of its Pro Bowlers) should open holes, but who will have the hot hand this week? Because the Raiders will likely run the football 30 to 40 times this week, Murray makes for an RB2 start and Washington is a flex play option.
It is risky to start the wide receivers from either team on Sunday particularly the studs you’ve likely relied upon this season. The player with the lowest floor / highest ceiling combination is Demaryius Thomas. Thomas and his 86 catches, 1,085 yards, and 5 touchdowns has not been amazing, but he’ll see 7-8 targets as always. The Raiders have been profoundly good at shutting down number one wide receivers. And with the Broncos planning to rotate quarterbacks, this is not a strategy for the faint of heart. Leave the popcorn at home, bring the Tums. Sit Thomas if you can. If you have to consider playing him, he’s more of a flex option this week.
Emmanuel Sanders, like Thomas, has had a good statistical season with over 1,000 yards and 5 touchdowns. But as a downfield threat, his effectiveness will be muted by the Broncos quarterback carousel. Yes, he could always blow open a big play, but he may also end up with a single catch for 12 yards. He’s more of a low end WR3 play.
With great sadness, your fantasy team must strongly consider sitting both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. With the Broncos strong pass rush and excellent secondary, these two will be on lockdown. With McGloin under center, the chances of big production out of these superstars gets even lower. Cooper and Crabtree have been important to your success this season – but virtually every other receiver in the league has a better matchup this week, and several have better quarterbacks throwing them the ball.
Matt McGloin may well be functional for the Raiders, but Derek Carr he is not. The Broncos defense poses a real and present danger to talented quarterbacks starting all season let alone backups who have seen little action this season. It is not worth risking your fantasy football life on McGloin.
If you play in a deep fantasy football league, a sneaky start for your WR5 or flex might be Andre Holmes or Seth Roberts. Neither of these guys is good enough or consistent enough for most lineups in standard fantasy football leagues. But they will probably see a few targets, and will not be covered by the Broncos’ top-line defenders.
As functional as Trevor Siemian has been, and as promising as Paxton Lynch is, no reasonable fantasy football team owner can play either knowing that they’ll be in a platoon situation. The Broncos plan to play both on Sunday.
The seldom-used Raiders tight ends are nothing more than a prayer this week, despite Clive Walford’s touchdown last week. Walford and fellow tight end Mychal Rivera simply don’t see enough targets and face the tough Broncos defense.
Virgil Green remains sidelined with concussion symptoms. He is not worth the start, and it’s not worth going much deeper than that down the roster, because you will find names like Jeff Heuerman.