These days, the only thing the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders have in common is being in the AFC West. The Raiders are coming into week 10 win-less at 0-8, where the Broncos are in need of regaining their swagger after being exposed in multiple areas against New England, but sit at 6-2.
Recent history suggests the Broncos will go into the Oakland Coliseum, do their business, and leave, having a party on the flight home. Over the past 3 trips to the Black Hole, the Broncos have gone 3-0, with an average margin of victory of 15.6 points. And that’s including their 2011 victory, coming at the hands of Tim Tebow. Even Raiders fans know how much of a laugher this game has become. Every year, since 2011, the attendance has gone down by thousands of fans each year at the Coliseum.
Peyton Manning has much to prove in this game, not only to the NFL but more importantly to himself. The reigning NFL MVP is harder on himself than anyone and he knows the window is closing for he and the Broncos. With many unknowns this coming off-season, he knows it’s time to learn from his recent failures and move on.
The Broncos have made it through the toughest part of their schedule and are ready to make a strong statement. They need to start off on the right foot this week, and win out the remainder of their schedule, leaving it up to no one but themselves to get home-field advantage. Against the Raiders, there is no better opponent to set that kind of tone and momentum.
The Raiders defense is 25th in the NFL in points allowed per game, with 24.6. When they play at home, it’s even worse, with an average of 30.7 PPG allowed. Not a good stat, with a hungry Manning coming into town.
Oakland is giving up an average of 132 rushing yards per game. This plays directly in the Broncos favor. All year, Denver has made a conscious effort to open up the pass with a consistent running game, and this Sunday will be no different.
Virgil Green being active on Sunday will go a long way toward running the ball effectively, while Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson must run the ball with power and force Oakland to have 8 bodies in the box.
Thompson compliments Hillman’s quick-cut style of running, although getting enough touches in a game has been an issue for him. If Thompson can run with power and tire the Raiders defensive line, the secondary is in for a long day.
Manning will be looking to expose a banged up secondary. Carlos Rodgers, Chimdi Chekwa and T.J. Carrie are all questionable to play in Sunday’s game. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both had 100+ yard games against the New England Patriots, although neither scored. Be prepared for Denver to spread the field more often on Sunday and make a huge effort to get tight end, Julius Thomas, in the mix early and often.
For the most part, the brightest point for the Raiders this year has been at quarterback, with the rookie, Derek Carr. Carr has averaged 213.9 passing yards per game, with 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. His poise and game management skills have impressed many people throughout the NFL.
Unfortunately for Carr, his play has not propelled the Raiders to a single victory. Broncos defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio, needs to take advantage of the inexperienced rookie and disguise some blitz packages.
The lack of a stable, productive running game, with long time veterans, Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden, has caused Oakland to add more pressure to Carr and his receivers. Oakland’s offensive line has had it's fair share of issues this year as well.
Their run schemes and pass protection are both rated among the worst in the NFL. If the Broncos #1 run defense can force the rookie quarterback to throw more than he needs to, then their secondary will be in a position to have a massive day.
This game is Denver’s to lose, and if they do lose, there are more issues with the team than just the scoreboard operator at Sports Authority Field. Manning will be amped up and have the team out for blood on Sunday.