Broncos vs. Raiders: 5 Game-Changers for Denver
On Monday night the 2011 NFL regular season will officially commence for the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders. The two division rivals face off in what will surely be one of the most important games of the year for both teams.
As hard as it is for a Week 1 matchup to be a crucial game, this game certainly will hold some weight over the course of the year.
There are plenty of questions that remain to be answered for both squads. For Denver, the questions they intend to answer on Monday will outline the rest of its season:
Can Denver's defense, plagued with injuries, stop the run?
Will Kyle Orton's 2010 stats prove to be an inflation as a result of always playing from behind? Or does he possess the skill set to continue his offensive prowess?
Will Denver's awful rushing attack from 2010 transform into a league-leader with the addition of Willis McGahee?
Let's take a look at the game-changers for Denver—the players that serve to make a statement on Monday and help the Broncos toward a fast start in 2011.
5. Von Miller
In approximately four months, the league might be crowning Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller as the 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
On Monday night, far before the voting begins, Miller will be busy creating the highlights that will construct the reel for his bid.
Miller must have a great first NFL game for Denver against Oakland. He'll need to rush the corners fast and make use of his tremendous speed to put the always-mobile Jason Campbell on the run.
If it wasn't enough that Jason Campbell can move around with the football, Miller will have to contend with Darren McFadden and Michael Bush as they bruise through the middle of the defensive line.
This rookie will make an early statement if he can stop the terrific rushing attack that Oakland boasts. If he is able to contribute to the downfall of Run DMC and Bush, Denver will force Oakland to pass the ball more than it is accustomed to.
This is where Miller will truly shine. His insatiable thirst for hitting the quarterback will not be quenched without at least two or three individual sacks on Campbell.
Miller will be one of the most important players of the game for Denver on Monday Night Football.
4. Willis McGahee
Some say he's over the hill, he's past his prime, his glory days ended a long time ago. Sports fans that witnessed Denver's preseason know Willis McGahee is as effective as ever.
McGahee joins the team in 2011 as Knowshon Moreno's accomplice in what hopes to be the resurrection of Denver's rushing attack.
McGahee has already proven in the preseason that he has a love for putting the ball in the end zone. On Monday he'll need to continue the show and prove to Oakland that it's not the only team on the field with a running game.
Kyle Orton and Moreno will handle the majority of the work getting the team down the field, but it will be up to McGahee to finish the job and deliver the ball into paydirt.
3. Elvis Dumervil
Elvis Dumervil returns to the game in 2011 after sitting on the injured reserve for the entire 2010 season.
Dumervil will have to start fast to get back on pace when Denver faces Oakland Monday. A year off can seriously take a toll on some players. For Dumervil, he says he "feels faster, stronger and better conditioned" than in his previous years in the league.
It will be up to Dumervil to continuously put pressure on Jason Campbell in Oakland's backfield. If Campbell is allowed to operate with ease, the Denver Broncos will have a long night.
It's difficult enough that Denver will have to find a remedy for Oakland's rushing attack, but to have to defend the pass consistently as well will have a serious effect on its ability to win the game.
Expect Dumervil to cause havoc for Campbell all night—allowing Von Miller to do the same—and also making way for the speed of Denver's defense to match the speed of Oakland's offensive stars.
2. Knowshon Moreno
It's the most important year of Knowshon Moreno's career.
The third year for a running back in the NFL is the time to shine and the time to prove whether or not he has the longevity to continue in the league. After year No. 3 there's not much time for backs to prove themselves as they begin to move past their prime in a league that's producing heavy hitters every year.
On Monday Moreno will need to prove that he fits in the Broncos' offensive scheme. Preseason proved helpful for Moreno's reputation, but this game will make it or break it.
Moreno will carry the bulk of the load and serve as the clock-eater, and two rush-heavy teams will make for a quick game, so every opportunity counts. Big runs by Moreno will be paramount in matching McFadden's expected success.
Expect Moreno to make a statement against the Raiders and further his progress towards being an elite runner in the National Football League.
1. Kyle Orton
Kyle Orton is the Denver Broncos' on-field general. The players love him, the coaching staff loves him and most of the fans love him.
In order to coerce the remainder of Denver's fans, Orton will need a huge game against the division-rival Raiders.
This should be no problem.
In 2010 Orton was forced to throw for the majority of the year. Playing from behind and without an adequate rushing attack allowed for Orton to display exactly what he can do when given the opportunity. He threw for more than 3,600 yards, 20 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in 13 games.
Sure, his stats were inflated, but he still made the throws.
Couple his efficient play and intelligent game management with an improved and rejuvenated rushing attack and Orton should impress many on Monday Night Football.
He may not throw for 300 yards like he did in so many games last season, but the throws he makes will be on target, on time and will move the chains.
If these five Denver Bronco game-changers can come together and do their jobs appropriately come Monday, this squad should end the night with a huge win and a great start to the season.