Oakland Raiders: Week 4 Breakout Player, Tyvon Branch

Jeff Spiegel@jeffspiegelContributor IISeptember 27, 2012

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

As the season gets deeper and deeper, a fan's or an analyst's job gets much easier because tendencies and signs become clearer.

For the Oakland Raiders and their Week 4 opponent, the Denver Broncos, the idea couldn't be more true.

In Oakland, the Raiders' weakness has manifested itself clearly over the first three weeks: the defensive backfield. Marred by injuries and inexperience, the Raiders are relying on a mish-mash of players who were castoffs, practice squad players, or in Michael Huff's case, those playing a completely new position.

On the other side of the ball this week is Peyton Manning, a quarterback whose reputation seems to have preceded him thus far this season.

In three games, Manning has thrown three interceptions and just five touchdowns while completing the lowest percentage of passes since his rookie season (1998).

The criticism of Manning this season has often been in regards to his ability to throw the ball deep, where many experts have said that his passes just don't have the zip and accuracy that we're accustomed to.

A look at the numbers provides some confirmation.

For Manning, all three of his interceptions have come on passes thrown 21 or more yards downfield, and actually, he hasn't completed a single pass to the guys on his team throwing the ball that deep all season (0/5).

So what does all of this mean for the Raiders?

For starters, it means a guy like Tyvon Branch could be in line for a huge game.

Branch, believed by many to be an underrated safety, could use his ball-hawking skills to prey on Manning's downfield inaccuracy.

For Branch, however, that would mean snapping out of an early-season funk that has left him borderline irrelevant.

While Branch has logged 22 tackles in three games, he has yet to make the game-altering impact the Raiders rely on him for, especially after signing him to a big four-year contract this offseason.

One week after finally breaking through and getting their first win of the season, this early trip to Denver has become pivotal for Oakland. Having lost their first divisional game in Week 1, the chance to even their season and divisional record is one they must capitalize on.

And if that's the case, expect safety Tyvon Branch to play a big part in that.