It’s that time of year again. The Broncos slip into a Black Hole, the Black Hole, for a weekend. Talk about receiving a lump of coal before Christmas. The memory of the 45-point home loss has faded a bit, but the hurt from the 3-10 season has not. The Broncos are a fragile group right now, and heading to Oakland is like putting a wounded dear near a busy freeway. The Raiders are on the fringe of officially being ruled out of the playoffs, but a win this week and a loss by the Chiefs and the Chargers will set them up for one last swing on a full count. This is no easy task, but the Broncos do have a chance for redemption. My Prediction: Raiders 28 Broncos 20
Broncos - The Broncos say that Kyle Orton is their starter, but Tim Tebow has been getting most of the reps in practice this week. Orton is nursing sore ribs and sat out of Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practice. The Broncos expect him to be out on the field on Sunday. Now that Knowshon Moreno is a “Show,” the team needs the passing offense to pick up where it left off against St. Louis. Over the last three games, Moreno has averaged 5.5 yards per carry with 2 touchdowns and zero fumbles. Now that’s the back that we would have liked to have seen starting in September. A lot of that has to do with a healthy and gelling offensive line. The offense just needs to convert on third downs and keep the turnovers down to be a solid offense once again.
Raiders- The Raiders are all about the run. If you had Darren McFadden, you would be too. They are the 3rd best rushing team in the league, but the 24th best passing team. McFadden is averaging 5.2 yards per carry with 7 rushing TDs on the season. He’s just as deadly a receiver averaging 11.2 yards per catch with 3 receiving TDs on the year. This has been Jason Campbell’s go to guy for keeping drives alive. Campbell also has two great threats in Zach Miller and Louis Murphy. This offensive line gives great run protection, but they’ve allowed Campbell to be sacked more than any other QB for the number of games that he’s played in (27 sacks in 10 games).
Broncos - The Broncos are ranked 31st in rush defense and 19th in pass defense. That story doesn’t get much worse. As a result, the team is giving up a league-high 28.9 points per game. The defense has been in some really good battles over the past few weeks, but the lack of offensive production has forced the defense, who is on the wrong side of 30, to be out on the field too much and in poor field position. Late in the game, the defense tires, and ends up giving up 43 points to the Cardinals or 36 to the Rams. The issue comes down to a lack of pass rush. The Broncos have the right men in the secondary, but they can only provide tight coverage for so long.
Raiders- They are ranked 26th in rush defense and 7th in pass defense. If they follow the Cardinals and Chiefs’ recipe for stopping Kyle Orton, there isn’t much of a shot of Orton getting back on track. Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the best shut down corners in the league and it helps that he’s got the help up front. The Raiders have the 4th most sacks in the league with 38, and Tommy Kelly has most of them (7). It was the Raiders defense that gave the green light for the “Fiasco at Invesco” to go down. The Broncos turned the ball over on their first two snaps and before you could bat an eyelash, it was 21-0. The defense was hungry and now they’re looking for seconds.
Broncos - Matt Prater should be a go, but part-time return man, Demaryius Thomas, is a question mark. Kickoff coverage is important for this team who has Jacoby Ford to deal with down field.
Raiders- Ford is averaging 23.3 yards per kick return and he’s taken two to the house. He’ll make a sleepy special teams’ unit pay as well as any cornerback who is off his game. The Raiders have two great kickers in Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler.
Broncos - It’s pretty much set that Eric Studesville will not return as head coach next season. However, he’s still itching to close out the season on a positive note. As a running backs coach, perhaps he’s got a good game plan for slowing McFadden.
Raiders- Tom Cable’s job is absolutely on the line this week. If he doesn’t win, it’s likely that the Raiders won’t win again this season. They’ve got the Colts and the Chiefs coming up.
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