The Denver Broncos take on the Oakland Raiders at home in what will be their final game of the season. Win or lose, the defending champions are mathematically eliminated from AFC West and Wild Card contention at this point.
That said, head coach Gary Kubiak hasn’t ruled out the possibility that first-round pick Paxton Lynch could start the final game.
Gary Kubiak said he'll make a decision Paxton Lynch and other players for Sunday in the next couple of days.
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) December 26, 2016
Lynch made appearances in three games this season when starter Trevor Siemian sprained an AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder. He replaced Siemian on Oct. 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, throwing for 170 yards and one touchdown.
He played solid the following week in his first start against Atlanta, completing 23-of-35 passes for 223 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. But the Broncos lost 23-16, which called into question the rookie’s performance.
Lynch also saw action against Jacksonville when Siemian sprained his foot. The Memphis product was only 12-of-24 passing with 104 yards and no touchdowns in a 20-10 win.
At just 22 years old, Lynch has time to develop into the franchise quarterback that Denver is looking for. But at this point, he’s considered a raw player who lacks accuracy and touch on his throws.
Currently, Denver is -2.5 on our GTBets line for Sunday’s game. But this could easily shift with Lynch starting, so take his start into account if you’re thinking of betting on the game.
Even if Lynch lowers the Broncos’ chances of winning on Sunday, it’s not like Trevor Siemian is a far-better option. He played really poorly against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, completing just 17-of-43 passes for 183 yards and an interception.
In the past three weeks, Denver has managed just 23 points on offense, which is a huge reason why their playoff hopes vanished.
Siemian played solid up until December and has tallied 3,195 yards, 16 TDs, and 9 INTs, despite missing time with injury. But given the offense’s inability to move the ball over the last few weeks, it only makes sense to give Lynch a try.
Many are intrigued by Lynch’s combination of height (6’7″) and arm strength. If he can show something against Oakland this weekend, he’d have a better chance at winning the starting job next season. If not, then Denver can begin looking outside the organization assuming they don’t think that Lynch or Siemian are capable of leading the team in 2017.
Last season, the Broncos didn’t have strong quarterback play either, with an aging Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler manning the snaps. Neither player was very effective, forcing Denver to rely on their run game and defense on the way to a Super Bowl title.
The team hoped that they could replicate this formula again in 2016. But their chances took a hit when running back C.J. Anderson suffered a torn meniscus. Since then, they’ve had more and more trouble moving the ball, and there was even a locker room argument between the offense and defense.
Given the disappointing way that this season went, don’t expect Denver to rule out any major changes heading into 2017, especially if Lynch doesn’t look sharp against the Raiders.
As for Oakland, they also have a quarterback issue of their own because Derek Carr suffered a broken leg and will be out 6-8 weeks after surgery. Backup Matt McGloin will start against Denver in his place.
Assuming Carr was playing, we’d probably have Oakland favored on the line. But since he’s not, the Raiders are sitting at +2.5.
Strangely enough, rumors suggest that the Raiders may talk to Michael Vick about joining their team. He’s the biggest name in the QB free agent pool, and he appeared in five games for the Steelers last season.
But a source who’s close to the team says that Oakland hasn’t had any talks with Vick yet. And given that the Raiders are paying McGloin nearly $2.6 million to be their backup, they have quite a bit of faith in him.