Countdown to Paydirt: Raiders vs. Broncos

Monday night, when the Oakland Raiders face the Denver Broncos, will be my ninth season covering the Silver & Black, credentialed through the organization.

Countdown to Paydirt has been a fixture during that span, previewing each match-up and giving in depth analysis of what you can expect on game day. This season, the Raiders open their 2011 campaign with a new head coach and boundless hopes after posting an undefeated season within their division in 2010 and their first non-losing record since 2002.

Oakland Raiders

On Offense:

Keeping it on the ground should be the Raiders point of emphasis versus the Broncos. Oakland has a size advantage along the offensive line, and nothing would be better than injecting as much confidence as possible into that re-vamped group by letting them plow into Denver’s front-seven.

Darren McFadden tallied 284-rushing yards and four scores in their two match-ups a year ago. Michael Bush enjoyed success as well, and if Hue Jackson’s offense can feed off its ground attack, it will make life easier for Jason Campbell and slow down what could be an excitable Elvis Dumervil, in his return after missing most of the 2010 season.

What to Expect:

“You haven’t seen the best of him yet,” Jackson said of McFadden. “I see a young man who is ahead of the curve of where he was last year, seeing his reads, sticking the ball in the right spots, accelerating, knowing when to decelerate.” Raiders will lean heavily on their top ranked rush attack from a year ago in hopes of mimicking their two victories against their rivals. If they can’t run the ball effectively, Denver has a speedy end and a fiery rookie pass rushing linebacker that could make life difficult for the bigger offensive line.

On Defense:

Chuck Bresnahan is leading the Raider defense once again. His job will be to keep the front-seven active, in finding ways to masquerade what could be a sub par pass defense in 2011.

To his advantage; having a stable of linemen that can be disruptive. Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston have the motor and ability to consistently get into the pocket, while veterans John Henderson, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly anchor the middle of the trenches.

What to Expect:

If the Raiders cannot rattle Kyle Orton with their pass rush, he could pick apart a secondary that is missing Nnamdi Asomugha. John Fox is a run-oriented coach. So it’s hard to think he will let his passer drop back 30-40-times, especially if Oakland is getting into the backfield. But that may be their best chance of slowing down the Raider front-four and keeping them off-balance.

Denver Broncos

On Offense:

Left tackle Ryan Clady and his mates will have to play a big game to notch a victory on national television. The Boise State product is among the league’s elite linemen and responsible for keeping Orton’s jersey clean.

That will objective number one against the Silver & Black. Number two; teaming up with his guards and rookie right tackle Orlando Brown, to pave some lanes for Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee. “In this training camp, [Clady] really improved his run blocking too,” John Elway observed. “So we hope that he can stay here for a long, long time and be that cornerstone, because he’s got that ability to be that guy.”

What to Expect:

Short quick tosses to Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal, maybe some double moves to keep Oakland’s defensive backs guessing and to slow down Bresnahan’s pass rush. If Orton can get in a roll, maybe then they can mix it up with the run and keep the Silver & Black off-balance.

On Defense:

Rookie linebacker Von Miller is expected to have a huge year. He’s been bantered about as a pre-season favorite for ‘Defensive Rookie of the Year’ due to his pass rushing prowess.

“Obviously we thought a lot of Von Miller to draft him in that spot and getting Elvis back is huge, both in the locker room as well as on the field,” Broncos head coach, John Fox said. “So, they’re a pretty good little tandem.”

What to Expect:

Oakland could face a blitz happy defense on Monday. It will only be effective if Denver can stay disciplined enough to stay in their lanes and contain what could be an over-powering Raider ground attack. Speed is on Fox’s side, but Oakland’s size will have to be neutralized with smart play. If Campbell is placed in many passing situations, Denver could feast with Miller and Dumervil.

KEY MATCH UPS

RAIDERS O-LINE vs. BRONCOS FRONT-7

If Oakland can impose their will and pound away with success, there isn’t much Denver can do to retaliate.

KEEPING DUMERVIL & MILLER AT BAY

Staying out of 3rd and longs and playing from in front is a must for Hue Jackson.

GOOD ORTON, OR BAD ORTON?

If Orton can get into a rhythm, the Raiders may not be equipped this early in the season to find plan-a or plan-b with their un-proven secondary.

PREDICTION

Raiders 23 – Broncos 20

I’m giving the Raiders the benefit of the doubt here. It’s a statement game for Jackson, who has talked up his club all summer. “I expect to win here,” Jackson has stated. “And 8-8 doesn’t cut it for me. I’m not interested in being 8-8. I’m interested in being great.” Oakland has the superior talent, but on the road, versus a rival on national television should equalize what was an uneven match-up in 2010. Should be a close game, but the Raiders have the better place-kicker.

GAME NOTES

Oakland has lost 11 straight prime-time games since Nov. 28, 2004. Denver has lost three-straight home games to the Raiders.

The Raiders lead the series 58-41-2.

“It’s night and day,” Seymour commented, on the team’s disposition since he first arrived. “It isn’t even close. … Now we’ve got to translate it into wins and losses. Every year I’ve been here we’ve won more games. Hopefully, we’ll get to double digits this year.”

“Like a lot of things in this league, things didn’t work out,” first-year Broncos coach John Fox said of his stint as a staffer with the Raiders. “Coaches get fired, coaches leave, people move on. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the organization or the coaches. We all change addresses very often.” He continued: “It was just a situation where Al was going to do it their way and it was different than what I was accustomed to. I think it was just a difference of opinion, and he’s the owner.”


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