The effort starts with pressuring Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler behind a poor pass-protecting offensive line. Defensive lineman Khalil Mack could become a huge factor in limiting Denver’s passing attack.
|Will Khalil Mack Feast on Denver's Offensive Line?|
|Khalil Mack Sack Total||Raiders Team Sack Total||Broncos Sacks Allowed|
|Last 4 games||5||8||12|
Aside from Mack, fellow defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., Denico Autry and linebacker Malcolm Smith should find success rushing the pocket with speed and power.
Defending Denver’s Conservative Offense
|Brock Osweiler's Training Wheels|
|Week||Opponent||TD/INT||Osweiler's Yards Per Pass Atempt|
As illustrated in the table above, the Broncos scaled the playbook back to keep Osweiler comfortable in the pocket.
In three of four games, the Broncos’ signal-caller averaged fewer than seven yards per pass attempt. In Week 11 against the Chicago Bears, Osweiler took greater chances with throws and went conservative thereafter.
When throwing 20 or more yards downfield, Osweiler has completed three passes to go along with two interceptions and zero touchdowns, per Pro Football Focus. The Raiders shouldn’t overly concern themselves with the deep ball on Sunday.
Since Osweiler took over for Peyton Manning, Denver’s ground attack has led the team to victories. In the last three games, the Broncos field the No. 3 rushing offense, averaging 161 yards per game with a two-man backfield.
Adding Leon Orr for Run Support
Running back C.J. Anderson's status remains questionable, per DenverBroncos.com, after missing all three practices during the week. Juwan Thompson would complete the two-man ground attack without Anderson in the lineup, per ESPN NFL Nation reporter Jeff Legwold.
Oakland made a strategic move in upgrading defensive lineman Leon Orr to the active roster to add bulk up front, per CSNBayArea.com reporter Scott Bair:
Orr will likely rotate with nose tackle Dan Williams in 3-4 sets and Justin Ellis as a defensive tackle in 4-3 alignments.
The Raiders clearly identify the ground attack as the Broncos' offensive strength with an inexperienced quarterback in the pocket. Orr’s presence helps the run defense sustain tenacity as the game progresses against a two-man backfield.
Inserting Larry Asante at Safety
According to CSN Bay Area reporter Fallon Smith, safety Nate Allen will miss Sunday’s game:
He’s coping with an injury on the same knee that sidelined him for nine weeks.
Oakland should insert safety Larry Asante into the starting lineup instead of shifting defensive back T.J. Carrie back to safety.
Carrie played well at safety in Allen’s absence. However, Osweiler’s three completions and two interceptions shouldn’t cause despair for the deep ball.
Oakland should defend against yards after the catch. Asante serves as a consistent solid tackler capable of minimizing extra yardage.
This season, Carrie has missed nine tackles. Cornerback D.J. Hayden would defend either Sanders or Demaryius Thomas on the perimeter with Carrie playing safety, which spells nightmare for the Raiders secondary.
Running to Victory
Center Rodney Hudson participated in full during Thursday and Friday’s practices. He looks ready to make a return to action after missing three games with an ankle injury.
Hudson's presence aids the rushing offense as a whole. Aside from the first drive against the Kansas City Chiefs, running back Latavius Murray has struggled to move the ball between the guards.
Oakland must allot more carries to fullback Jamize Olawale to keep the rushing offense effective late in the game when Murray tends to fizzle out. Olawale also runs with power and ball control—two qualities that erode a run defense.
|Raiders' Incomplete Rushing Offense|
|Rushing Attempts Ranking||Rushing Yards Ranking|
|Latavius Murray||No. 4||No. 4|
|Total Rushing Offense||No. 27||No. 22|
The Raiders' starting running back ranks No. 4 in rushing yards, but as a whole the team struggles with sustaining success on the ground.
With a Pro Bowl-caliber center leading the way, Murray and Olawale should find lanes against the Broncos run defense. Secondly, establishing the rushing attack neutralizes Denver’s prominent pass-rushers.
The Raiders haven’t found ways to close out games, especially against good football teams, as highlighted by San Francisco Chronicle writer Vic Tafur:
Oakland imploded against the Chiefs in the previous outing. The Raiders must win the turnover battle against the Broncos’ opportunistic defense.
Denver has forced six turnovers in the last three games. In the previous meeting, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. sealed the victory with a pick-six off a miscommunication between quarterback Derek Carr and wideout Seth Roberts.
Finally, the rushing attack must factor into a Raiders victory. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper experienced rough outings against this defense in Week 5. Murray registered 39 rushing yards.
Oakland’s late-game follies and poor execution as of late leave room for skepticism in pulling off the upset.
Broncos 17, Raiders 13
Follow Maurice Moton on Twitter for news, updates and intriguing discussion about the Oakland Raiders.
Raiders roster transactions provided by Raiders.com.