This coming weekend finds the Oakland Raiders (2-2) meeting up with long time rivals, the undefeated Denver Broncos (4-0), at O.Co Coliseum Sunday afternoon. There are two tidbits worth mentioning right way. Oakland’s head coach Jack Del Rio is familiar with the Broncos as he was a part of that organization as a defensive coordinator before becoming the Oakland Raider top dog this season. The second is that Denver has beaten the Raiders in their last 8 match-ups. This makes for good football.
Denver has been a formidable opponent especially since Peyton Manning's came on board.
That being said this year could prove to be a different story. This is not the same Raider organization that has fielded teams over the past couple years against Manning and crew. Del Rio is at the helm, Derek Carr and Amari Cooper are on the field and continuing to improve and providing the Oakland offense with some solid weapons. The Raider defense is talented and ready for a big breakout with Khalil Mack and Smith. They must be sure to bring the pressure to Manning who isn’t necessarily on his a-game especially with the new offense style that seems to be challenging him to say the least.
There are some notable points worth taking a look at on the Broncos Side…
The Broncos are ranked 2nd in the NFL on defense and a lot of that has to do with Aqib Talib. Yes the Raiders offense is vastly improved with the addition of Amari Cooper but Talib has shown he has what is takes to cause fits for talented wide receivers. His physical press coverage erased the likes of Calvin Johnson and Jeremy Maclin in the early part of this 2105 season. It will be a good match-up to see Talib bringing the pressure to Cooper and visa versa. We may however see the talented veteran giving a bit of schooling to the top rated rookie.
Manning knows defenses well and can pick them apart where there is the slightest opening. to be sure the Raiders have make significant progress on the defensive side. But Owen Daniels and Virgil Green are likely be able to get open and that's when you can look for Manning to capitalize on the Raiders slower linebackers. Other teams have gone after the Raiders with the same successful approach all season so the question is can the Raiders make the adjustments and fill those holes on defense.
Derek Carr needs to be aware of the Broncos and their pass attach this week. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are veterans with solid record against opposing teams. Add the likes of Shane Ray who pulled down his first sack in last week’s gams and add Derek Wolfe who is back from his suspension. The new combinations are an advantage for Denver giving defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' a myriad of options in his play calling.
On the Raider side Latavius Murray had a rough game against the Bears last week so he needs to shake it off and get back to form. He's a real threat to opposing defenses and assuming he can fins his a-game he can keep Denver honest and put a crimp in their blitz plans. He simply needs to keep both hands on the ball as the Broncos have seen film of Murray's two fumbles last week and will be looking to take advantage.
For Carr, he must know Miller and Ware will be coming at him off the edges so make sure to have Helu Jr. in position to take the hot throws when Carr is pressured.
The Raiders are a bit banged up in their defensive backfield and Manning has definitely seen the tape so… the pass rush for the Raiders needs to come strong early and often and set the tone. Otherwise Manning will be throwing a slew of long balls and may have a field day if he gets his rhythm going. Khalil Mack and crew must be present from the start.
Scott Davis writes sveral blogs on sports, charity and business