The Oakland Raiders are in a position to shock the football world by going into Denver for Monday Night Football and taking down Peyton Manning and the mighty Broncos.
To get a good feel for the scale of this possible upset, let me just say that Bovada.lv has the Broncos as 16-point favorites. That spread is no surprise.
At this point in the season, the 2-0 Broncos are almost universally considered the best team in the AFC. Meanwhile, the 1-1 Raiders are busy trying to prove they aren't terrible.
The perception of both teams will be drastically different if the Raiders are victorious on Monday night. Here is what they need to do to pull off this upset.
Put Pressure on Manning
In other words, this 4-3 defense is relying on the blitz to supply the majority of its quarterback pressure. That is a dangerous way to face Peyton Manning.
While a team can't allow Manning the time to sit back and pick it apart, it also has to be leery of Manning anticipating the blitz and exploiting the ensuing weakness in the defense.
Therefore, the Raiders are going to have to find a way to generate pressure using their down linemen. They don't have to come out of this game with a high number of sacks, they simply need to ensure that Manning doesn't have time to get comfortable in the pocket.
Dominate on the Ground
The Raiders offense has been a powerhouse on the ground so far this year. After two weeks, the Raiders trailed only the Eagles in rushing yards per game. At 198.5, the Raiders turned out over 40 more yards per game than the third-place team.
A big part of the reason has been Terrelle Pryor.
The third-year quarterback has 162 rushing yards on 22 carries. Pryor ran for over 100 yards in Week 1. Then he watched Darren McFadden rush for 129 yards last week, as the Jaguars made a point of containing Pryor.
With the Raiders returning to a power blocking scheme and the added threat of Pryor, McFadden is due for a big season. That is good news for the Raiders—especially in this game.
Oakland could use all the rushing yards McFadden, Pryor and anyone else can get the team in this game. Of course, those yards won't be easy to come by.
Denver has allowed just 40.5 rushing yards per game and 2.0 yards per carry so far this season. Those are the best marks in the NFL through two weeks.
Somehow, the Raiders must find a way to exploit that defense. The last thing Oakland wants to do is get in a passing showdown with Manning.
By running the ball, Oakland can wear out the Denver defense and take control of the flow of the game. That will help the Raiders keep the ball out of Manning's hands, which is always a good thing.
Long Drive on 1st Possession of 2nd Half
If the Raiders don't have success on our first two items, this is going to be inconsequential. However, if this game is close, the Raiders would benefit from a long drive and some points on their first opportunity in the second half.
The Broncos have already scored 66 points in the second half this year. For the sake of perspective, that amounts to more points than any other team has scored throughout its entire first two games.
In both games, the Broncos have come out in the second half with great pace and quickly built momentum. This has led to an avalanche of yards and points.
Let's face it, if the Broncos offense finds its rhythm, it is going to be nearly impossible to stop. As such, the Raiders will have to use their offense as a defense. With a long drive on its first opportunity in the second half, Oakland will keep Manning waiting on the sideline while also keeping its defense fresh.
This will help set the tone for the second half and give the Raiders a nice base to weather the Broncos' inevitable offensive explosion.