The Oakland Raiders – Denver Broncos game this Sunday renews one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in the NFL. In two games this year, the Broncos have posted more impressive offensive and defensive statistics than the silver and black, but the Raiders should get a boost by playing at home in front of the Raider Nation.
However, in games like this, statistics are thrown out the window, and the winner will emerge based on making big plays at crucial times and winning important match-ups.
Five key match-ups to watch this Sunday include the following:
The speedy 5’11” Dumervil, the right outside LB in the Broncos 3-4 defense, has four of Denver’s seven sacks this year, all against the Cleveland RT. He will attempt to add to this sack total going against Cornell Green, the Raiders RT.
Green and the entire Raiders OL have done an admirable job protecting JaMarcus Russell in the pocket, only surrendering three sacks in two games and for the most part keeping pass rushers off Russell.
Look for Dumervil to blitz around the edge on pass plays to help the three man defensive line try and get to the QB.
To be successful against the outside speed rush, the Raiders need to either keep a back in to chip Dumervil, or Russell needs to get rid of the ball quickly. Green will be hard pressed not to pull back early with false start penalties.
Buckhalter, the former Philadelphia Eagle, will share playing time at RB with Knowshon Moreno and LaMont Jordan, the former Raider. Buckhalter has rushed for 122 yards in 17 carries for a 7.2 yard-per-carry average, of which 45 yards came on a TD run against the Browns. Moreno will also get a lot of touches in the game.
Morrison, the leading tackler for the Raiders last year, had two tackles opening night against the Chargers while recovering from an injury and stepped up for a team high 13 tackles against the Chiefs. He looks to be very active against the Denver rushing attack.
To be successful, the Raiders DL will need to get a strong push on the Broncos line, and ILB Kirk Morrison will need to move in and make tackles near the line of scrimmage. This will lead to third and long situations for Kyle Orton, obvious passing situations that play into the Raiders’ strengths.
If Russell returns to last years’ form, look for him to find his TE Miller deep across the middle against the Broncos.
Although he was shut out without a reception last week, Miller hauled in six receptions opening night against the Chargers for 96 yards, an average of 16 yards per catch.
Strong safety Renaldo Hill will be tasked with covering Miller, aided by linebackers such as D. J. Williams who will be dropping into pass coverage.
If the Raiders’ rushing game is successful, Hill and the LBs may need to cheat up on the line and will be more susceptible to play-action passes. This might free up Miller for long gains up the middle of the field.
The Broncos OL has provided QB Orton with excellent pass protection against both the Bengals and Browns, surrendering only three sacks in two games.
He’s faced little defensive pressure and has had plenty of time to survey the field and find a receiver. He has completed 55 percent of his passes for two TDs, no interceptions and a 90.9 passer rating.
Seymour had a monster game against the Chargers with two sacks, and led the DL to constantly collapse the pocket around Phillip Rivers. He lines up at both DT and DE for the Raiders, and will move around on different plays to try and confuse and exploit the Bronco’s zone blocking system.
If Seymour is held in check, the Raiders LBs and defensive backfield will be called upon to cover the Bronco receivers, whom Orton will attempt to locate as he checks off his receivers.
If Seymour has another strong game, Orton will face his first serious pass rush of the season and may be forced to deliver the ball before his receivers break open.
The explosive RB McFadden has been held in check this year, rushing for just over 100 yards total, and hauling in only four passes for 45 yards in two games. Playing injured last year, he also did not have particularly good games against the Broncos.
However he is always a threat to break off a long gain, and the Raiders have been trying to get him the ball in open space and allow him to exploit his open field moves.
ILB Davis leads the Broncos with nineteen tackles and a sack, and has a nose for the ball carrier. When playing for the Browns last yea,r Davis registered 90 tackles. He seems to fit in well in the newly revamped Broncos defense.
There are many other individual battles to watch for this Sunday in addition to these five match-ups. The winners of these key matchups will play a large part in determining the overall winner of the game.
For what it is worth, my preseason prediction for this game can be found at http://bleacherreport.com/articles/252957-fearless-game-by-game-predictions-for-the-2009-oakland-raiders-season/page/2 and is as follows:
“The Raiders squeak by 16-14 in a closely fought contest. The Raiders move the chains well, but commit 10 penalties, four of which stall promising drives.
A Russell fumble leads to one Bronco score, and the Raiders defense is caught flatfooted on an Eddie Royal reverse that goes 40 yards for a TD.
Janikowski kicks three field goals, including the game winner with 2:48 remaining. Chaz sees limited action, and hauls in one catch. Record 2-1.”