The Denver Broncos may have clinched the AFC West title with a win this past week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but there is still a lot at stake as their week 14 matchup looms on Thursday night versus the Oakland Raiders.
The last time these two teams met was in week 4 when the Broncos put together a solid effort in winning 37-6 behind Peyton Manning tossing 3 TDs and recording 338 yards in the air. RB Willis McGahee ran for 112 yards and a score and as a team, the Broncos amassed 165 yards on the ground.
Behind two NFL MVP candidates in Manning and LB Von Miller, the Broncos have emerged as one of the favorites in the AFC based on their balance on both offense and defense. During their current seven game win streak, the Broncos have scored 30 points or more in six of those games and Manning has played unconsciously while posting superb numbers and making everyone around him better. Nobody can attest to that more than WR Demaryius Thomas, who has over 1100 yards and eight TDs on the year.
The future Hall of Fame QB on the year has recorded 29TDs against only 9INTs for over 3500 yards so far, and even gets the respect he deserves while quieting the home crowd and asking them to stop doing the wave after a key third down conversion this weekend versus the Bucs. Everyone at Sports Authority Field at Mile High heeded his request and the stadium gave off the appearance of the Pope giving mass.
A win against the Raiders would give Denver their longest win streak since 1998 when the Broncos started the season 13-0 with another Hall of Fame QB under center, John Elway. The only difference here is that O.co Coliseum where the Raiders play is not Giants Stadium 14 years ago and the Broncos will not be losing this Thursday night.
The Raiders are in the midst of a streak of their own, not making a playoff appearance in 10 years since they went to Super Bowl XXXVII and lost to the Bucs 48-21. Carson Palmer has been horrendous against the Broncos lately, losing four in a row and posting only a 69.3 passer rating in those games.
Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen will be on the sideline Thursday following the death of his dad, former NFL LB Grady Allen. It will be a tough game to plan for Allen, who was not able to stop the Broncos earlier in the year, and now Denver has improved tremendously since that September meeting.
Knowshon Moreno should be able to move the chains against a Raiders team that allows 130 yards per game on average, good for 28th in the league. Unfortunately, the Raiders pass defense is just as bad, ranking 25th in the league. This does not bode well for the silver and black, as Manning is looking vintage 2004, and the Denver defense has been swarming and solid both on the front seven and in the secondary.
Look for Palmer to throw at least two picks, while Darren McFadden, coming back after an ankle injury unable to get into rhythm, and the game to get out of hand quick. Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Derek Wolfe and Wesley Woodyard should be able to disrupt plays and keep Palmer horizontal while preventing a big play.
Denver is presently tied with the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots at 9-3, but is behind because of tie breakers. They are looking for an edge as they meet the Ravens next week, and the Patriots have tough games against the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers in back to back weeks. Beating the Raiders will just be another game in their season as the players and coaches are following Manning’s lead: cool, calm and collected.
The Broncos should win this one handily as they did in the earlier meeting: 34-12
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