Raiders vs. Broncos Preview
On September 23rd the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos head to mile high stadium for a classic matchup on Monday Night Football. The Raiders are coming off a solid, yet expected win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Broncos return after dismantling the New York Giants in the Manning Bowl. Pryor and company will have to bring the best that they have if they are going to keep up with the rejuvenated Broncos. The Raiders success this week will hinge on five key components. Without further ado, here they are.
5. Replace Tyvon Branch
The Raiders wealthiest player fractured his fibula while attempting to tackle Chad Henne in last week’s game. He is a valuable member of the defense, who has managed to stay relatively healthy during the past four seasons. Since 2009 he has missed only two games. Branch and his whopping 9.5 million dollar salary will be hard to replace, putting more pressure on an aging Charles Woodson. Slated to replace Branch is Brandian Ross. Ross has showed promise in limited playing time and will likely greatly increase his 21 career tackles while Branch is out.
4. Slow Down Denver’s Stable of Receivers
An already weakened secondary will have to dig deep to slow down Wes Welker, Eric Decker, and Demaryius Thomas. Peyton Manning has 9 TDs and zero interceptions, the best start to a season in NFL history. Welker has proved to be a great red zone target and Thomas can stretch the field. The Raiders will have to play hard and smart to keep this bunch out of the end zone.
3. Getting the Defense off the Field
Mile High Stadium is a nightmare for teams not used to the change in altitude. The Raiders, a team based at sea level could be ill equipped to manage the lack of oxygen. Preventing Manning from a high third down conversion will help alleviate fatigue and keep the defense from wearing out in the fourth quarter. The defenses ability to get stops, along with Terrelle Pryor’s ability to sustain drives will determine how much the air impacts the outcome of the game.
2. Terrelle Pryor playing smarter
For a forgotten man, Pryor has been playing much better than anticipated. He improved on turnovers in his second game, but failed to record more than 126 yards passing. Pryor needs to combine the positives shown from each game and incorporate those into this Monday Night Football matchup.
1. Darren McFadden
The key to the entire time is the presence of McFadden. His ability to gain yardage on the ground will open passing lanes for Pryor and keep the Raiders defense resting on the sidelines. He exploded last week from his long slumber with 129 yards on only 19 carries for an impressive 6.8ypc. He also added 28 yards on 4 catches for a total of 157 yards from scrimmage. McFadden seems poised to finally live up to his potential, just as long as he can stay healthy. He has stated that he is frustrated with his “injury prone” tag. Luckily for him, there is a simple way to remove it: stay on the field. That is exactly what the Raiders will need if they are going to upset the Broncos in Denver.