Broncos Game Plan and Matchups

Broncos Update gives you an in-depth look at Sunday's game against the Raiders - from game plan to the key matchups. Check out the inside story.

The last time the two teams met, the Broncos did just enough to win. They jumped out to a 13-0 lead and then got conservative. Denver had only 35 yards passing after the first quarter. It wasn't entertaining, but the Broncos would gladly take a repeat. They want to take an early lead and let the defense loose against Oakland's poor offensive line.

The Broncos might try to take a few deep shots to Javon Walker, which was the case in the first meeting, early in the game. If they can control the game from the first quarter, the Broncos' defense probably won't allow too much to Oakland, which was shut out last week against Seattle.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Raiders WR Randy Moss vs. Broncos CB Champ Bailey. The Broncos moved around Bailey to shadow Moss in the first meeting. The Broncos haven't matched up Bailey exclusively against a receiver much the past two seasons. But they don't want Moss waking up against them. Moss is on pace for one of his worst seasons, but Denver respects his big-play ability.

--Broncos defensive line vs. Raiders offensive line. The Raiders can't protect their quarterback. The Broncos defensive line has slowed down a bit the last couple weeks, but there's no reason Denver can't get a few sacks in this game.

--Broncos WR Javon Walker vs. Raiders defensive game plan. The Raiders need a plan to stop Walker. Single coverage hasn't been too effective for any team against Walker, who the Broncos are leaning on in the passing game. Oakland will likely employ more than one defensive back to slow down Walker.

INJURY IMPACT: LB Ian Gold has a hamstring injury and did not practice Wednesday. He will be evaluated through the week. If he can't play, Louis Green or Nate Webster would fill in.

--DE Ebenezer Ekuban didn't practice Wednesday. He is questionable on the injury report. If he doesn't make progress, John Engelberger would likely start.

--WR Rod Smith practiced Wednesday. He has a shoulder injury but should be ready to play.

--CB Darrent Williams missed the team portion of practice Wednesday. He did warm up at the beginning of practice but will be limited this week with a shoulder injury.

--S Nick Ferguson was cleared to play and practiced Wednesday. He suffered a concussion last week.

--S John Lynch said he felt fine on Wednesday. He practiced and showed no ill effects from a concussion he suffered last week.

--RB Tatum Bell practiced on Wednesday. He is questionable on the injury report and will have to prove in practice this week he can be full speed on Sunday.

--FB Kyle Johnson is still recovering from an ankle injury, but he practiced Wednesday. He will be evaluated through the week.

--DE Patrick Chukwurah did not practice Wednesday. He has a hamstring injury and could miss Sunday's game.

SERIES HISTORY: 93rd meeting. The Oakland Raiders have a 53-37-2 record against the Denver Broncos, but the recent history is one-sided in Denver's favor. Since the start of the 1995 season, when once-fired Raiders coach Mike Shanahan took over in Denver, the Broncos are 18-5 against the Raiders and have swept them seven times. The Broncos won the first meeting this season, a dull 13-3 win in which there was only three second-half points combined.

NOTES, QUOTES
--The Broncos were surprised when Oakland defensive end Tyler Brayton kneed Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens in the groin during Monday night's game.

"Football is not that way," defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said. "Guys play hard, but it's a gentleman's game. It really is. It's fierce and violent, but you've got to respect your opponent, and your opponent has to respect you. I don't think that's part of the game."

Cornerback Champ Bailey said he understood how emotions could get the best of Brayton.

"You're out there in the heat of battle, and it's tough to keep your cool," Bailey said. "But that's what makes us NFL players -- we know how to control it and turn it into positive energy."

--Broncos coach Mike Shanahan doesn't hide his contempt for the Raiders, who fired him in 1989. He was asked if he had any good memories from his 20 games as Raiders head coach.

"No," Shanahan said without a hint of a smile.

--The Broncos aren't happy with the tackling problems they have had the past couple of games. They gave up 499 yards against Pittsburgh, and defensive coordinator Larry Coyer estimated that 150 yards came after missed tackles.

"If you're going to win, you have to tackle," Coyer said. "There is no correction for a missed tackle. It's like you're playing them with 10 guys, if you know what I mean. We have to correct that."

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 -- Career receptions by Broncos receiver Rod Smith against the Raiders, the most for any player in history against Oakland's franchise.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no easy game in the NFL. This week with the Raiders, it's our rival and at their place. We've got to play well." -- Quarterback Jake Plummer.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos placed safety Sam Brandon, a key backup, on injured reserve. That hurts the Broncos on special teams and in their nickel package. The Broncos often used Brandon in a "big nickel" defense because he matched up against tight ends very well, without Denver sacrificing too much in run defense.

The Broncos are monitoring many injury concerns and are waiting to add a player to fill Brandon's spot on the roster.

PLAYER NOTES
--WR Domenik Hixon returned to practice Wednesday. Hixon, a fourth-round pick, had been on the non-football injury list since the start of training camp. He hurt his foot working out before the draft. The Broncos have three weeks to make a roster decision on him.

--S Curome Cox should see his role increase with the injury to Sam Brandon. Like Brandon, Cox has good size and his background as a cornerback makes him a versatile defender.

--LB Keith Burns had a big special teams play against the Steelers last week and even played some middle linebacker after Al Wilson suffered a mild concussion. Burns is a locker-room leader and steady veteran who has anchored the special teams for years.

--RB Tatum Bell is still not 100 percent. The Broncos have a tough decision with him. He needs rest to get better but the team can't afford him staying on the bench too long. Bell will be evaluated in practice this week.

--S Hamza Abdullah should be active and a big part of the special teams the rest of the season. Abdullah has been inactive five times this season, but he moves up the depth chart with Sam Brandon's injury.



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