Raiders vs Broncos: Instant Grades, Analysis for Denver
This marks Denver's first divisional matchup for the 2012 NFL season, and the first of two yearly meetings with the Raiders.
After two straight losses to drop Denver's record to below the .500 mark, Denver will be looking for a huge win out of one of their most heated rivalries.
Peyton Manning faces a defense that has shown plenty of give early in the season, and Willis McGahee is rushing against a front seven that allows more than 100 yards per game in 2012. Aside from the two men in the backfield, Denver has receivers on each end with deep catch capabilities and an ability to thread the center of the field.
Denver has all its weapons at its hips, ready to draw, and Oakland is already reeling after barely moving past the Pittsburgh Steelers in a shootout in Week 3.
This could easily turn into another high-scoring game for both sides on Sunday afternoon. It will be up to the veteran leadership of the Denver Broncos to keep the home team in the lead.
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Kickoff at 2:05PM (MST) on CBS.
So far in a young season, Peyton Manning has showed us every type of quarterback he can be.
He can throw for huge yards and deliver giant plays to his talented receiving corps. And he can also throw to the team wearing different colors three times in a 15-minute period.
What kind of quarterback will Manning be when the 2012 NFL season comes to a close?
Against the Oakland Raiders and a sloppy and injured pass defense, Manning has a chance to put a seriously solid game down in a Denver Bronco uniform. He's projected across the Internet to put up at least 250 yards and multiple scores.
But any less than 300 from a quarterback with a skill-set like Manning's against a defense that allows 264 yards per game to less-experienced captains would be a bit of a disappointment.
Manning's key will be smart deliveries to open receivers, and adjusting the play as he's done so well over his years in the league.
Too many times this season Manning has been a victim of a play-calling coup by his coaching staff. He's been seen lining up in the I-formation for entire drives, making no changes to his lineup or his receivers' routes. He needs to be seen where he's done the most damage: in the shotgun, calling the shots and confusing the defense.
The Denver Broncos offense as a whole should be a well-oiled machine on display against the Oakland Raiders defense on Sunday afternoon.
The key for Denver's receivers and backs will be to get themselves in the right position to make safe and effective plays.
They don't need to run for 30 yards out of the backfield every time, or sprint for the end zone on every route. They just need to get to a position on the field where they can earn decent yardage, move the chains and keep themselves out of position for Oakland's defensive players to make impact plays.
Demaryius Thomas will need to use his size and strength to push away from the secondary and find gaps big enough to fit his enormous frame. Eric Decker will have to use his speed to slip through the cracks of the defense and get the yards this offense needs underneath.
As for the backs, Willis McGahee and his backups Lance Ball and Jeremiah Johnson will do best to keep the mistakes at a bare minimum, run the ball between the tackles and find the open space behind the line.
Once the front seven are in the background, McGahee and company should have no trouble earning some healthy yards through Oakland's defensive backfield.
The key to this game, like any other, will be pressuring Oakland's quarterback, Carson Palmer.
The Raiders boast a scary-fast receiving corps and a quarterback that can deliver the ball to them, at least most of the time.
Palmer has been typical of throwing interceptions, not at any specific time, but throughout games. Denver's defense will have to capitalize on every opportunity, unlike the way it has squandered its chances so far this season.
Too many times Denver's secondary players have found themselves just out of position for the game-changing turnover, or diving toward a tipped ball that they only manage to tip away themselves.
Finish the play, steal the momentum and steal the game. Denver's defense must rely on disrupting Palmer's motions, flushing him out of the pocket, and forcing ill-advised throws.
Eventually, if Palmer is forced to throw the ball away early in the game, he'll need to start taking chances even when on the run. Denver's chance will come then.
Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller have the opportunity to live up their names this week, and Champ Bailey will have to lead his secondary unit in an effort to take the ball away as many times as possible.
For the first two games of the season, the Special Teams unit of the Denver Broncos was almost invisible.
They were present and accounted for when necessary, but never made much of a difference in either of Denver's first two affairs.
Last week, that changed when Omar Bolden finally made some noise for this unit, but the wrong kind. Bolden was guilty of interference with the returner for Houston and cost the defense 15 yards of field advantage on its ensuing drive.
Against the Oakland Raiders, especially in what looks to be a shootout at Mile High, the Special Teams for Denver will have to make an impact for the right side. A return of any kind, longer than Denver's 7-yard average would be acceptable, just so long as it created some momentum and energy for the offense.
Normally the head coach faces all the backdraft, and accepts all the praise for the big wins and the big losses.
But recently, it's been more of a coordinator focus for the Denver Broncos.
Mike McCoy's job is to keep the game plan steady, and make the play calls as he sees fit. But what isn't happening as much as it should is letting Peyton Manning take control of the play at the line.
There's been too many tight formations, too many times that McCoy and John Fox have kept too strongly to their favor for the running game. When Peyton Manning runs your offense, the play calls need to remain focused on the vertical passing game, the mid-field underneath passing game and getting the ball down the field in chunks.
As for the defense, Jack Del Rio has done a fine job so far of firing up his defense when absolutely necessary.
For two consecutive weeks, the defense for Denver has done its job late to keep the team in the games and put the offense in position to make some miraculous comebacks.
It's been impressive, for sure. But it would be much more impressive if this defense could do its job early and keep the potential of a late-game comeback a dream of the opposing team and not of the Broncos offense.