Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos: 5 Storylines to Watch

DJ SiddiqiCorrespondent IIISeptember 19, 2013

Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos: 5 Storylines to Watch

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    The Oakland Raiders travel to Mile High to face the Denver Broncos in both teams' first interdivisional matchup of the season next Monday night.

    The Raiders (1-1) are coming off of their first win of the season, a 19-9 defeat of the Jacksonville Jaguars in Oakland. Terrelle Pryor, Darren McFadden and a stingy Raiders' defense led Oakland to the victory. Pryor ran for 50 yards on nine carries while McFadden ran for 129 yards on 19 carries in the Raiders' shotgun and pistol-heavy offense.

    The Broncos (2-0) enter Week 3 after pulling away from the Giants during the second half in New York in Week 2. A Broncos' lead of 17-16 late in the third quarter became a 38-16 Denver blowout after the visitors scored 21 straight points in a six-minute span.

    The Broncos announced on Wednesday that Ryan Clady will miss the rest of the season due to a Lisfranc injury to his left foot that he suffered against the Giants, as he was placed on injured reserve.

    Although the Broncos will be heavily favored in this AFC West matchup, it will a contest of two teams heading in different directions.

    Following are a few things to look out for as the Raiders visit the Broncos in Week 3.

The Raiders' Offense

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    It may not be the read-option offenses of the NFC West led by Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson, but the Raiders' version of that offense is getting the job done.

    Through the first two weeks, Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor has ran for 162 yards. The Raiders came within a drive of defeating the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, before notching their first victory over the Jaguars in Week 2.

    Pryor was in the pistol or shotgun a combined 34 times in Week 1. As a result, he ran for a quarterback franchise record of 112 yards. It was the second-most rushing total of any player in Week 1.

    In the Raiders' Week 2 victory over Jacksonville, Pryor and the offense ran out of either the shotgun or pistol on 35 of 61 plays.

    What does that mean for the Broncos' defense?

    Get ready for a plethora of read-option looks.

    There is no doubt that Pryor has energized the Raiders and he gives Oakland a dimension that backup Matt Flynn would not have been able to give had he been named the starting quarterback entering the season.

    Having said that, Pryor is still raw at throwing the football since he has just three career starts under his belt. He was 15-of-24 for just 126 yards versus Jacksonville. He was also sacked three times by a Jaguars' defense that was ranked the worst in the league in 2012 at sacking the quarterback.

    The Broncos have faced two immobile, high-octane passers in Joe Flacco and Eli Manning during the first two weeks. The defense has played well, having limited big passing plays.

    However, the Broncos face a completely different quarterback and offense in Week 3. It should be interesting to see how Denver's defense reacts to the read-option look with Pryor and Darren McFadden.

Ryan Clady's Absence

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    As mentioned earlier, Broncos starting left tackle Ryan Clady will miss the rest of the season due to injury.

    It's disappointing news to hear, as Clady is obviously the best player on the Broncos' offensive line. This comes just months after the Broncos rewarded Clady with a five-year, $57.5 million contract. Since entering the league in 2008, he had never missed a start.

    In his place for Monday night will be Chris Clark, a career backup tackle for the Broncos since 2010.

    Considering that the Broncos' offense is pass-heavy, it should be interesting to see their game plan for Week 3.

    Will the Broncos run the ball more or will they run out of the '12 personnel' more often, which calls for one running back and two tight ends?

    This matchup will be America's first glimpse of how the Broncos' offense still operates without its franchise left tackle in Clady on the field.

Will Champ Bailey Play?

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    Champ Bailey has missed the first two games of the season and Denver's defense has looked just fine without him.

    With a young nucleus in the defensive backfield, the Broncos have forced six turnovers—ranking second in the NFL—and have limited quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Eli Manning to a combined 62.3 quarterback rating, for the third-best defensive mark in the league in that category.

    But again, the Broncos are facing Terrelle Pryor in Week 3. Pryor is not nearly the same elite passer as Flacco or Manning, but he is definitely much more of a dual threat than either of those two.

    Having Bailey in the lineup—even at the age of 35—will help slow down the read-option attack led by Pryor considering Bailey's reputation as a two-way cornerback.

    After all, Bailey did face the read-option attack on a weekly basis in practice when the Broncos had Tim Tebow as quarterback in 2011.

    The Broncos' young defensive backfield, including the likes of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Chris Harris Jr., Duke Ihenacho, Rahim Moore and Tony Carter, has proven that its aggressive style can succeed against pass-heavy offenses.

    If Bailey can't play, the question is whether Denver's aggressive style will succeed versus the Raiders' read-option attack, where patience is key on the defensive side of the ball.

Will Knowshon Moreno Continue to Establish Himself?

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    After a Week 1 outing that saw Knowshon Moreno contribute just 28 yards on nine carries, the University of Georgia product exploded for 93 yards on 13 carries, including two touchdowns that helped turn the tide in Denver's favor before the Broncos eventually finished off the Giants, 41-23, at the Meadowlands.

    It's clear that Moreno is Denver's best bet at running back.

    The Broncos young running backs, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, have taken a clear backseat to the fifth-year veteran. Ball had 12 carries in Sunday's win, but ran for just 16 yards and a had a fumble that cost the Broncos a touchdown in the red zone on their first drive of the game. Hillman had just one carry in Week 2.

    Entering Week 3, the Raiders' defense has allowed just 161 yards for 3.6 yards a carry on the ground. Oakland's total rushing yards allowed is 10th-best in the league. Jacksonville Jaguars running back, Maurice Jones-Drew was held to just 27 yards on 10 carries by the Raiders' defense in Week 2.

    Considering Ryan Clady's absence and the Broncos' possible need to utilize more '12 personnel', Moreno's contributions in the running game may be more important than ever.


Can Peyton Manning Continue This Torrid Pace?

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    Peyton Manning has thrown for nine touchdowns and no interceptions through the first two weeks of the NFL season.

    Both Manning and the Broncos' offense have looked unstoppable, as they've racked up 40-plus points in each of their first two games.

    However, that was with franchise left tackle Ryan Clady protecting Peyton's blind side. Will Manning feel the same type of comfort with Chris Clark blocking for him? It's the same Chris Clark who hasn't started a game since the 2011 season.

    There is little doubt that with the absence of Clady and the inclusion of a career backup in Clark, the Broncos will have to utilize a different offensive look for Week 3 as they ease Clark into the lineup.

    If the Broncos utilize less of the '11 personnel' and more of the '12 personnel', will that have an effect on Manning's stats? If the Raiders' front seven—who had five sacks of Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne in Week 2—pressure Peyton, will that rattle the four-time MVP?

    We'll find out when the Raiders visit Mile High on Monday night.