Raiders-Broncos Preview

In Week 7, the Raiders travel to Denver to square off against their long-time rivals, the Denver Broncos. It's the 100th meeting between these two franchises, and in addition to pride and bragging rights, early positioning in the division standings is also on the line.

-- In Week 7, the Raiders return to division play as they take on their hated-rivals, the Denver Broncos.

-- Kickoff is set for 1:15pm PT. The game will be broadcasted on CBS with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts in the booth.

-- Sunday's game will be the 100th matchup between these long-time foes. Currently, the Raiders lead the series 56-41-2.

-- This is the first AFC West divisional game for Denver. The Raiders opened division play against the Chargers in Week 5. The Kansas City Chiefs currently lead the division at 3-2, with the Raiders, Broncos and Chargers tied at 2-4.

-- The Raiders are coming off of a 17-9 defeat at the hands of their cross-Bay rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. The Raiders were hamstrung on offense, compiling a season-low 179 yards. Jason Campbell had a dismal performance, throwing for only 83 yards and two interceptions on 8 for 21 passing. His passer rating of 10.7 was the worst in franchise history since Ken Stabler's 9.9 against Cincinnati in 1975.

-- Last week, the Broncos lost to the Jets after New York took the lead with 1:13 remaining. Renaldo Hill's 46-yard pass interference allowed the Jets to score the go-ahead touchdown. The Jets won 24-20.

-- Oakland has last four straight games on the road, including a stretch of 13 of the last 18. However, two of those wins came in Denver.

-- Last year, the Raiders dropped a Week 3 matchup against the Broncos, 23-3 in Oakland. In Week 15, they got some payback on the road, winning that one 20-19.

-- In all likelihood, Campbell will be making his second start of the season. Last week, Campbell sprained left knee, leaving open the possibility that Kyle Boller would be starting against the Broncos. Head Coach Tom Cable says he'll make the call before the start of the game, but Campbell's knee has improved enough this week that it's look like he'll be ready to go.

-- The Broncos are led by second-year coach Josh McDaniels. McDaniels is the second youngest coach in the NFL—Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris is four months younger. McDaniels has compiled a career record of 10-11 and is 1-1 against the Raiders.

-- Cable is 2-1 in his career against the Broncos, included a 2-0 record at Invesco Field. In his first game against the Broncos, Cable's 2008 Raiders won 31-10.

INJURY REPORT

For the Raiders:

Out: LB Travis Goethel (back), DT John Henderson (foot), OLB Thomas Howard (knee), WR Chaz Schilens (knee).

Questionable: RB Michael Bennett (hamstring), SS Tyvon Branch (back), QB Jason Campbell (knee), FS Hiram Eugene (back), QB Bruce Gradkowski (shoulder), RB Darren McFadden (questionable), TE Brandon Myers (concussion).

For the Broncos:

Out: LB Robert Ayers (foot), S Brian Dawkins (knee), CB Andre Goodman (quadriceps), S Darcel McBath, LB Wesley Woodyard.

Questionable: CB Champ Bailey, WR Eddie Royal, DL Kevin Vickerson.

RAIDERS DEFENSE VS. BRONCOS OFFENSE

The secondary will be tested the league's third ranked passing offense. Coming into Sunday's matchup, the Broncos are averaging 311 passing yards and 41.2 pass attempts per game—fourth most in the NFL.

Quarterback Kyle Orton is on pace to pass for more than 5,100 yards this season, and the Broncos have three receivers—Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal—with more than 30 receptions this season. In comparison, Zach Miller is the only Raiders receiver with at least 20 receptions.

The secondary has been burned in two consecutive while straying from the man-to-man and going to zone. You would think things would get easier after the Broncos traded away Brandon Marshall during the offseason, but as Nnamdi Asomugha said earlier in the week, there isn't one receiver the defense can focus on. Instead, the secondary has to keep their heads on a swivel because the Broncos will be attacked from all over the field.

Per usual, the Raiders have got to get to the triggerman, Kyle Orton. Orton is one of those quarterbacks who won't wow you with his physical ability, but he manages very well with what he has. The offensive line, which has undergone several changes already this season, does a fair enough job in pass protection, and when Orton has time to throw, he doesn't make many mistakes. Orton has thrown only three interceptions all season and the Raiders don't do a good enough job to begin with in the turnover department.

Based on that the Broncos will get theirs, so barring any extraordinary performance by the Raiders, Orton and company will be able to move the ball. So if the Raiders want a chance, they're going to have to play a bend-but-not-break style of defense, and really clamp things down in the redzone—because the Broncos will get there more often than not.

If there's a weak spot on this Denver offense, it is definitely the running game. It's a far cry from the days of Mike Shanahan, but Denver has turned into a pass-heavy offense under McDaniels.

Denver is ranked 32nd in rushing, Las week, they ran for a season-high 145 yards against the Jets. Still, injury has been a concern for the Broncos backfield. Knowshon Moreno made his return last week, after missing the previous three weeks. Moreno ran for 48 years on 12 carries and currently leads the team in rushing. Correll Buckhalter is the team's primary third-down, short-yardage back and is a load to take down once he gets a head of steam behind him. The team acquired former Patriot Laurence Maroney before Week 3. He has yet to breakthrough, rushing for only 74 yards on 36 carries.

Of note, McDaniels said earlier in the week that he'd like to get rookie quarterback Tim Tebow, one of the team's two first round picks, more involved in the offense, particularly in the passing game. Tebow has yet to attempt a pass in his NFL career, but he did run for a season-high 23 yards last week, including his first career touchdown.

Advantage: BRONCOS

RAIDERS OFFENSE VS BRONCOS DEFENSE

The Broncos were aggressive this offseason and made some key upgrades along the defensive front, most notably in signing former Charger Jamal Williams.

However, injuries have decimated the group and will hinder what they're able to do on Sunday. The Broncos have occasionally reverted to a 4-3 base defense to bolster their struggling run defense, but with defensive end Kevin Vickerson likely out, the line will be only six-deep.

Michael Bush struggled last weekend against the 49ers, but he might be getting some help this week with the possible return of Darren McFadden. After a fast start to the season, McFadden has unavailable the past two weeks with a hamstring injury. It's still uncertain how many carries McFadden will see, but a struggling Raiders offense could definitely use his dynamic ability in conjunction with Bush's power running.

Despite an utterly poor performance and an injured knee suffered last week, Jason Campbell is likely to get the start. If he isn't able to go, third-stringer Kyle Boller is next in line, with Bruce Gradkowski still recovering.

The Broncos are in the middle of the pack when it comes to pass defense. They have allowed 209.8 passing yards per game this season, but the secondary is just as injury-riddled as the defensive line. Brian Dawkins and Darcel McBath are out at strong safety, as is Andre Goodman at corner. Nine-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey will likely play, but has been slowed by sore ribs.

Campbell will be smart to get the ball to Zach Miller early and often. Last week, Miller didn't get his first catch until the fourth quarter and only had two for the entire game. It's absolutely inexcusable for that to happen, especially considering how inconsistent Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey have been. In his only two catches against the 49ers, Miller had two first downs. If the Raiders want to move the ball, Miller is the way to go. If McFadden is able to perform like he did before the hamstring injury, the Raiders will have a nice backfield combo on first and second down. But when they are in that integral position of converting on third down, Miller will be the way to go.

Are the Raiders are good offensive team? No. But they're certainly not as bad as they made themselves out to be against the 49ers. If the Raiders can get Darren McFadden back to his pre-injury state and just do the obvious—get the ball to Zach Miller—they should be in good hands. Of course, penalties will be an issue, as they've been all season long.

Advantage: BRONCOS

SPECIAL TEAMS

Matt Prater handles kicking and kickoff duties for the Broncos. On the year, he's his 11 of 12 field goals, with a long of 59 yards.

Brian Colquitt handles punts. On 29 punts for the season, Colquitt is booting them off at an average of 45.2 yards with a long of 63 yards. He's put down seven kicks within the 20-yard line.

As far as total yards off kick returns, the Broncos have a league-worst 271 yards. Eddie Royal and rookie Perrish Cox handle kick return duties. Royal is also the team's primary punt return specialist.

Advantage: RAIDERS

OUTCOME & PREDICTION

As far as rankings go, this is obviously an important game given the logjam in the standings behind the Chiefs. But even more so, if the Raiders want to convince themselves and their fans that they truly have improved, it becomes all the more vital that they bounce back with a win after last week's disheartening loss.

The Raiders have already surprised with an impressive win over the Chargers. Now is not the time to revert back to their old form.

In sticking with my preseason 2010 prediction (and going against logic)…

Raiders 30

Broncos 24

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