It’s that time of the year when one of the oldest rivalries is renewed between the Denver Broncos and their hated AFC West brethren, the Oakland Raiders. There has never been any love lost between these two teams and this promises to be another hard-hitting, intense game between 1-2 teams. As the Broncos head into Sunday’s game, I am sure the fact that the Raiders have won the past four games in Denver will be weighing on their mind. This will be a matchup of two teams fighting to stay alive and fighting through injuries and suspensions among key players.
For the Broncos it will be the loss of LB Joe Mays that will hurt them the most. Mays is the defensive signal caller and has been a solid veteran needed in the weakest of their positions. Keith Brooking will get the nod to replace Mays, but Steve Johnson and Danny Trevathan may be called on to spell both Brooking and Wesley Woodyard for short periods and that will undoubtedly hinder the Broncos, who are also without LB Nate Irving, who is out for a concussion.
The Raiders will be without WR Darius Heyward-Bey, who suffered a concussion in Sunday’s win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and was released from the hospital on Monday. Other notables for the silver and black are RBs MIke Goodson and Darren McFadden who are nursing hamstring and shoulder injuries but will most likely play. One player to watch is K Sebastian Janikowski who is nursing a groin pull and could be key for the Raiders in the thin MIle High air. Without Janikowski kicking well, field position becomes crucial.
This game will be all about the Broncos stopping the run and the Raiders preventing Peyton Manning from throwing all over the field. Both Manning and Raiders QB Carson Palmer have targets that can exploit the other team, but the Broncos must find a way to get pressure up the middle and prevent the play-action pass that is set up with the run. The Raiders rank 20th or lower in all defensive categories, so I do not see the Broncos getting off to the slow start we have seen the past two weeks. Manning should be able to find his groove and I look to both Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to get their fair share.
The Raiders had an impressive comeback win last week against the Steelers, but if their defensive struggles continue, Manning will just spread the ball around and find the holes. Willis McGahee, who left Sunday’s game early with a ribs injury, has been part of full practices this week and does expect to start. This may not bode well for the Raiders as they allow 116yds/game on the ground. Most would think that these two teams are an even match, but I do not see the Raiders coming into Sports Authority Field at Mile High this year and walking all over the orange and blue. Manning has been studying all week on how to fix the mistakes his offense has committed and if there is one QB in this league that can make adjustments, Manning is the one.
This game will be won by finesse and route-running this week and the Broncos have that edge. The Raiders will also commit more than three penalties against the Broncos which will leave them in precarious situations. This is the breakout game the Broncos have been waiting for in this early NFL season.
BroncosRants Prediction: Broncos 34 Raiders 17
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