Here is what you need to know when the Raiders (7-8) visit the Denver Broncos (5-10) at 1:25 PT in Sunday’s regular-season finale:
WHERE: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver.
AT STAKE: Nothing but pride. The Raiders could finish with a .500 record and a modest one-game improvement over a year ago after coming in having lost five of six. Raiders coach Jon Gruden isn’t going anywhere, and ESPN reported this week Denver will bring back Vic Fangio for a third season.
WHO’S OUT: Tackle Trent Brown is out with a knee injury and will complete the season having played in five of 16 games, and that includes three snaps in the season opener against Carolina. He’ll be replaced by Sam Young with Brandon Parker as the swing tackle. Starting left guard Denzelle Good didn’t practice all week and is listed as questionable and might not play. Rookie John Simpson would be the replacement. Also questionable are defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (calf) and slot corner Lemarcus Joyner (thigh). If Joyner can’t play, it would be the last chance to give Amik Robertson, a fourth-round draft pick, some extended playing time. He’s been buried on the bench all season on a team with poor play in the secondary.
COVID-19 LIST: Middle linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, the only one of the Raiders’ big free agent expenditures on defense to come close to expectations, will miss the game. Safety Erik Harris was activated from the COVID list. The Raiders will end the season having used the COVID-19 reserve list 33 times, the most in the NFL behind Baltimore (30). Secondary coach Jim O’Neil returns after missing the Dolphins game, but secondary assistant Taver Johnson will not make the trip because of COVID-related concerns.
QUARTERBACKS: Raiders starter Derek Carr played well enough to win in a 26-25 win over Miami, completing 21 of 34 passes for 336 yards and no interceptions despite a groin strain. It remains to be seen if Gruden will incorporate Marcus Mariota in to some packages to utilize his running ability, particularly near the red zone where the Raiders have struggled. Denver quarterback Drew Lock has 14 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions, and four of those picks came in a 37-12 loss to the Raiders in Week 11.
RAIDERS FAREWELLS?:The Raiders have 21 players eligible for unrestricted free agency. The most prominent include wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who has 47 receptions for 839 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s coming off a five-catch, 155-yard effort against Miami with an 85-yard score and played for the NFL minimum. The Raiders may try and lock him up before free agency hits. Also eligible is linebacker Nicholas Morrow, one of the few bright spots defensively. Tight end Jason Witten said he will wait until the offseason before determining if he wants to play another season or retire after 17 seasons.
KEY MATCHUP: Raiders tight end Darren Waller vs. Broncos safety Justin Simmons. Covering Waller takes more than one person, but if anyone is up to the task, it would be Simmons. At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, Simmons is a Pro Bowler after playing this season under the franchise tag of $11.4 million. Any plays where Simmons is isolated on Waller, who is moved all over the field by Gruden, are must-see T.V.
NO SEE TV: For the first time this season, there is no local television in the Bay Area of the Raiders as CBS determined that the KPIX affiliate would carry the Arizona-L.A. Rams game because of its playoff implications. The Saturday night game against the Dolphins was available locally only on the NFL Network.
FAMILIAR ENDING: The Raiders and Broncos ended the regular season on Dec. 29 last season in Denver. The Broncos won 16-15 when Shelby Harris batted down Carr’s two-point conversion attempt with seven seconds to play. The Raiders had pulled within a point on a 3-yard pass from Carr to Hunter Renfrow. Carr was 29 of 46 for 391 yards but the offense managed only three Daniel Carlson field goals until the final drive.
KEY STAT: The Raiders are minus-7 in turnover margin, while the Broncos are at minus-20 — the worst in the NFL. Follow the bouncing ball.
MILESTONES: Waller needs six receptions to tie and seven receptions to break Tim Brown’s franchise record of 104 receptions in 1997. Witten, on his first snap, will have played in his 271st game, breaking the all-time record for tight ends of 270 set by Tony Gonzalez. Running back Josh Jacobs is 24 yards shy of his second 1,000-yard season in two years. Carr is 268 yards shy of his third consecutive season with 4,000 yards passing.