It’s round #2 for these teams. The first meeting, a Broncos 23-3 win, took place in week 3 - what seems like ages ago. At that point the Broncos were still undefeated and no one really had a handle on them. Were they a good defensive team or were other teams just not finding their offensive rhythm? 12 weeks later, we know that the Broncos are a solid defensive team and deserve a playoff spot. The Broncos forced 3 turnovers and sacked JaMarcus Russell twice. In fact they scored 13 points off turnovers. The good news is the Raiders haven’t improved much, and this much needed Broncos win will help them in the playoff race. The Raiders have stunned some teams this season including the Eagles, the Steelers, and the Bengals, so Sunday’s game won’t be a walk off home run. The Broncos need to come out with the same kind of focus that they had against the Chiefs two weeks ago. They need to realize that while they’re not playing one of the best teams in the league, mental mistakes can cost them the game. My Prediction: Broncos 33 Raiders 13.
Broncos - The Broncos found success with their running game in week 3. Knowshon Moreno (21 carries for 90 yds., 1 TD) and Correll Buckhalter (14 carries for 108 yds.) controlled the clock and moved the Broncos down the field. This week, however, it looks like Buckhalter is sitting out with an ankle injury. Moreno is also a little beat up, so this makes room for, drum roll please – Peyton Hillis. Hillis, the Broncos go to guy at the end of last season, has seen more action on the sidelines this year than anywhere else on the field. Last year he carried the ball 68 times for 343 yards while this year he’s carried 12 times for 54 yards. This second year guy should complement the Broncos running game at least on short yardage downs since he weighs 35 lbs. more than Moreno. The Broncos will put points on the board fairly easily as long as they limit turnovers.
Raiders- The Raiders were down and out with JaMarcus Russell under center, so they went to Bruce Gradkowski last month and ended up beating the Steelers and Bengals with his leadership. Gradkowski, however was injured last Sunday, so Charlie Frye will be getting the start at QB. Frye hasn’t played this season, and he hasn’t started a game since October 2008. What a blow to Russell’s career. Darren McFadden is back from injury, so I expect the Raiders to use him a lot. Leading receiver Zach Miller suffered a concussion at the end of last week’s game, so he may not suit up. The Raiders are 21st in rushing and 31st in passing. The endzone at Invesco could become a foreign thing to this team.
Broncos - The secondary is a beat up bunch that will use this game to make new adjustments. Brain Dawkins is a little battered, but will get the start. It looks like rookie David Burton will start next to Dawkins in the secondary with Reynaldo Hill suffering an ankle injury and Darcel McBath being moved to the IR (broken arm). I watched Burton in training camp, particularly on special teams, and he hits hard for his size. Last week the Broncos figured out Peyton Manning’s led offense in the 2nd half, so I don’t suspect them having trouble with the Raiders offense. A McFadden-Fargas rushing combination looks mighty threatening, but the Raiders don’t have a balanced offense that can support the run. I see a lot of 3 and outs as long as the Broncos put pressure on Frye and clog the middle of the field.
Raiders- The problem with the Raiders defense is that they don’t adjust their defensive scheme according to the team their playing against. They always stick to the man-to-man coverage with one high safety, little blitzing and a four man rush. That’s their story and they’re sticking to it. Like the Chiefs, the Raiders have a tendency to give up big plays both on the ground and in the air. The Raiders are 30th in rush defense and 17th in pass defense. Kirk Morrison leads the team in tackles, Michael Huff and Chris Johnson have 3 INTs a piece, and Nnamdi Asomugha is hands down one of the best corners in the league. You know Asomugha would love to see some different schemes on defense. Richard Seymour will give Ryan Clady a run for his money again, hopefully minus the hair pulling. The Broncos shouldn’t have any problems putting points on the scoreboard.
Broncos - Darcel McBath will be sorely missed on special teams coverage. Matt Prater missed a field goal last week, but his performance has been so solid all season that I don’t expect it to carry over to this game.
Raiders- Jonathan Holland handles kick return duties while Johnnie Lee Higgins takes care of the punt return game. Neither has run one back for a TD this season. Sebastian Janikowski has been good this season hitting 19 of 22 field goals.
Broncos - Josh McDaniels is beginning to see how much this rivalry means. The last meeting between the two teams was physical and full of trash talk. McD will be fully prepared to handle anything the Raiders throw his way. After preparing for the Colts last week, this week must have seemed like a walk in the park.
Raiders- If Tom Cable were a target, consider his whole world a firing range. Besides the apparent anger issues, his head coaching position has been in jeopardy all season. He’s officially led the Raiders to another losing season, and the team hasn’t made strides to get better anytime in the near future. Will Al Davis keep the ship sailing the same way or will he finally change his ways? Hmmm…
Topics: Al Davis, Brian Dawkins, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye, Chris Johnson, Correll Buckhalter, Darcel Mcbath, Darren Mcfadden, David Burton, Denver Broncos, Jamarcus Russell, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jonathan Holland, Josh Mcdaniels, Kirk Morrison, Knowshon Moreno, Matt Prater, Michael Huff, Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland Raiders, Peyton Hillis, Reynaldo Hill, Richard Seymour, Ryan Clady, Sebastian Janikowski, Tom Cable, Zach Miller