Originally published on Silver & Black Report on Sept. 18, 2013
The Oakland Raiders (1-1) will head to Sports Authority Field at Mile High to take on the Denver Broncos (2-0) on Monday Night Football (5:25 p.m. PST on ESPN) in their first primetime game of the season.
The Raiders head to Denver after winning their home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars to pull even at 1-1 on the season, while the Broncos are coming off two dominating victories against the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants.
Oakland will look to continue to build on a strong week rushing the ball as running back Darren McFadden was able to get going last week, finishing with 129 rushing yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor also added 50 yards of his own.
Only problem with that theory is that the Broncos have allowed just 40.5 yards per game, good enough for best in the league in this young season. Pryor will have to keep an eye on the Broncos' linebackers and make the right decision when running the read-option offense to find some running room for himself and McFadden.
Should Oakland find the ability to rush the ball, it would help the offense sustain long, time-consuming drives. The greater the amount of time the Raiders hold on to the ball, the better. Keeping the ball out of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning's hands as much as possible would be defensively beneficial.
The more than likely future NFL Hall-of-Fame inductee Manning is playing some of his best football of his career this season at the age of 37. Manning has gotten off to a hot start and has averaged 384.5 yards per game on 67.1 percent throwing with nine touchdowns and no interception through the first two weeks.
The Raiders secondary had a much improved week last week against a rather inept Jacksonville offense, but they will be certainly put to a test this week. The Broncos feature three solid wide receivers with Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Manning's newest weapon, Wes Welker.
There's no question Oakland's secondary will have their hands full, especially with starting strong safety Tyvon Branch out with an ankle injury. Oakland's pass defense is currently ranked sixth in the NFL, giving up just 180.5 yards per game, but they haven't faced a passing attack like Denver yet.
Though he is probably the most difficult to surprise in the NFL, the Raiders will look to apply pressure on Manning in an attempt to force a mistake or come away with the sack. The Raiders have surprised with the pass rush, racking up nine sacks in the first two games after having just 25 sacks all last season. One way they have been able to do this is with blitzes coming out of the secondary. Raiders defensive backs have five of the nine sacks, the most sacks in the league by defensive backs. Cornerback Tracy Porter has 1.5, as does safety Usama Young, who will see an increase in playing time with Branch out.
The Raiders will likely look to attack the left side of the Broncos offensive line where they are without Pro Bowl starting left tackle Ryan Clady to Lisfranc. Clady is a three-time Pro Bowl tackle that has started all 85 games of his career since being drafted 12th-overall.
The two teams hold plenty of connections as Raiders head coach Dennis Allen worked as the Broncos defensive coordinator the year before filling the Raiders coaching vacancy. Current Raiders cornerback Tracy Porter (2012) and defensive end Jason Hunter (2010-2012) both previously played for the Broncos. On the other sideline, current Broncos head coach John Fox was the Raiders defensive coordinator from 1994-1995 and Broncos quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp was Raiders offensive coordinator just last season under Allen before being let go at the end of the year.
Milestones to lookout for: