The Raiders are coming off of their third-straight home win, defeating the Buffalo Bills 26-24 last Sunday, giving them three wins on the season.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos are coming off of a tough loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, where future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning threw four interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns.
The Broncos offense has changed mightily as the year has progressed, going from a pass-first scheme to one that uses running back C.J. Anderson much more. The former Cal running back has grabbed the starting running back position and become the leading rusher for the Broncos. He leads the team with 762 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Anderson is a big back with surprising speed that hurt the Raiders during their matchup in early November. He had 90 rushing yards on just 13 carries, to go along with four receptions for 73 receiving yards and one touchdown. The Raiders linebackers need to keep an eye on the running backs as Manning has no problem dumping it off low to them.
Manning out-witted the Raiders offense the last time around, throwing for 340 yards and five touchdowns.
There really is no recipe on how to beat Manning and the Broncos passing game, unless you believe the whole “cold weather” myth and have a way of bringing some bad weather to the game. That said, the Raiders secondary needs to find a way to stay with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who toasts the Raiders cornerbacks with 11 receptions for 108 yards in their last matchup.
On offense, Derek Carr and the Raiders passing game will be going up against a formidable secondary that is 12th in the league in defending the pass. Carr needs to keep an eye on cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward as they’re always a threat to jump a route and come down with the interception.
The Raiders offensive line did a great job keeping Carr off of his back against a very good Bills defensive line last week, and this week won’t be much easier. The line will face Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, who are both ranked in the top 15 of the league’s sack leaders.
Running back Latavius Murray and the running game may have a difficult time finding running game against a Broncos defense that is ranked 2nd against the run, giving up just 80.6 yards per game on the ground.
It is imperative for the Raiders to get Murray going though, as it will help keep the ball away from Manning as well as keep the pass rush honest.
Mark Davis and the Raiders front office will have a lot of decisions to make when the season finishes, but it still remains to be seen how quickly those decisions will be made.