The Denver Broncos have come close in two consecutive weeks to winning a tight ballgame against playoff teams from a year ago.
But, ultimately, they failed. The main reason: slow starts.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, the Broncos found themselves down 20-0 after Peyton Manning threw three early interceptions. Then last week the Broncos found themselves behind 21-5 against the Houston Texans.
The Broncos lost 27-21 and 31-25 respectively.
Now comes their most-hated rival the Oakland Raiders into the Mile High City. Oakland is coming off a big victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-31, to get its first win of the season, the first for rookie head coach, Dennis Allen.
So how do the Broncos avoid the slow start that has plagued them the past two weeks?
Find their rhythm and find it quickly. Whether it is by using the no-huddle offense, or completing quick passes or causing an early turnover, the Broncos have to find a way to have success early in the game.
Against the Falcons and Texans, the Broncos offense didn't find its rhythm until the second half. By then the deficit was too big to overcome.
Not only do the Broncos need to avoid the slow start, they have to find a way to contain running back Darren McFadden.
McFadden has been a Bronco killer. He's averaged 144.5 yards per game when facing the Broncos. So far, the Broncos rush defense has been good, ranking 14th in the league giving up 98 yards per game.
McFadden comes at a bad time for the Broncos defense, since starting middle linebacker Joe Mays has been suspended after a hit on Texans' quarterback Matt Schaub. The rest of the Denver linebacker corps—Keith Brooking, Danny Trevathan and Steven Johnson—will need to step up and have a big game for the Broncos defense.
It won't be an easy task to stop McFadden, but containing him will go along way will certainly improve the Broncos chances of winning.