Division games are everything in the NFL, no matter if it’s early in the season or late in the season. The Oakland Raiders face off with the Denver Broncos on Sunday with the winner inching closer to the leader in the AFC West and the loser slipping further out of the picture.
The Broncos are coming off a loss to the Houston Texans in which they needed a late comeback to make the game interesting. It is a game that showed Denver is still far from being the dominant team everyone thought it would be when it signed Peyton Manning in the offseason. The quarterback has made a giant impact on the team, but he cannot win games by himself.
Manning has been able to rely on his running game for the most part and Willis McGahee has done a good job carrying the load for the Broncos. He has 50 carries through three weeks for just more than 200 yards, which equates to a 4.3 yards per carry average. The stability of the run game has given Manning a safety blanket if things go wrong in the passing game.
Things have gone awry in the air for Denver and it has to do with the rust on Manning after sitting out a year. The quarterback is only completing 60 percent of his passes and has struggled at times this season. He put up an impressive 330 yards against the Texans, but that came on 52 pass attempts. His struggles on Monday night in Week 2 are well-documented: three interceptions and less than 250 yards. However, Manning has found a way to lead his team in the second half and make games competitive.
The Broncos have three good receivers in Brandon Stokley, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. All of them have double digit catches and more than 100 yards while Decker and Thomas have more than 200 yards. Manning’s old target Jacob Tamme is making a difference again with his quarterback and the tight end is the only other player with at least 10 receptions.
Defensively, the Broncos have been in the middle of the pack so far this year. They haven’t been amazing, but they haven’t been horrible either, so it is difficult to describe the defensive output. Denver has certainly been aggressive going after the opposing quarterback and have seven sacks to prove it, including three from linebacker Von Miller. On the opposite side of Miller, Wesley Woodyard has been excellent with 20 tackles, including 19 solo stops.
The defensive line as a whole has been solid, keeping teams under 100 yards on the ground per game. Elvis Dumervil leads the line in tackles, but Ty Warren and Justin Bannan have certainly played their part on the defensive line. In the secondary, Denver has two of the premier corners in the NFL, Tracy Porter and Champ Bailey. Porter has already defended six passes and has a pick, while teams have shied away from Bailey. At safety, the duo of Rahim Moore and Mike Adams have been solid and are making plays for the Broncos when they need to.