The Denver Broncos (2-5) travel to the Black Hole to take on the Oakland Raiders (4-3), which is the teams’ second and presumably final meeting of the year. The last time these teams met in mid-September, the Denver skies were grey and dumped buckets on the beginning of the Broncos season. Perhaps a sign to come? The Raiders walked away with a 23-20 win, and made Al Davis’s final game against the Broncos one that he could take to the grave. Kickoff is set for 2:05 pm MT.
Broncos: The offense is under an intense microscope. Third down conversions have been virtually non-existent since Tim Tebow took over as starting quarterback. The key to a working Broncos offense this week is a stout offensive line. Tebow has been sacked 13 times in the past two games. The O-line faces tremendous size and strength in the Raiders’ front four. They will be responsible for opening up holes for the ground game and for protecting Tebow. Look for more screen passes and quick hits at the beginning of the game to get Tebow into some kind of rhythm. Willis McGahee is back and will open things up, but like all games, this one sits squarely on the shoulders of the quarterback.
Raiders: The Raiders are as in as much turmoil offensively as the Broncos. Carson Palmer is in just his second game straight off the couch (so to speak), and the team is likely without Darren McFadden. In Palmer’s first game as a Raider he went 8-of-21 for 116 yards and 3 interceptions in the Raiders 28-0 loss to the Chiefs at home. Things will be different this week now that he’s more familiar with the playbook and he’s had more time with his receivers. The big move by the Raiders this week was signing one-time teammate of Palmer’s, T.J. Houshmandzadeh. He’s completely new to the team, but he could help Palmer and in turn the Raiders out the most. Even without McFadden, the Raiders are a major threat on the ground still with Michael Bush. They are ranked 2nd on the ground and 23rd in the air.
Broncos: Ultimately it comes down to stopping the run when it comes to the Raiders. Their fragile offensive state will force them to run the ball more than normal or at least start with that aspect of the game. Once the Broncos show that they can stop the run, they can focus on pressuring Palmers. The aggressiveness of the Broncos defense will also depend on the Broncos offense. If the team can get out to a big lead, the Broncos can feel more comfortable being aggressive on defense. It seems like when the offense struggles, it puts the defense on their heels and they’re too worried about playing mistake-free football. The Broncos are 17th in stopping the run and 19th in stopping the pass.
Raiders: The Raiders play big and fast. After all, Al Davis was the one that constructed this team. However, this is a defense that Tebow probably looks forward to playing. They are giving up 266.0 passing yards per game (ranked 25th) and they have given up 12 passing touchdowns on the season. If Tebow is going to be a ‘passing’ quarterback, this is where it could start. The team is 16th against the rush. While they held the Broncos to 38 yards in their last meeting, this is a different Broncos backfield that they’re facing. To put it bluntly, the Raiders’ defense is no Lions’ defense. Expect the Broncos to have some success moving the ball here.
Broncos: After an emotional special teams ride two weeks ago, special teams was a non-factor last week. The game was too out of reach. The team hasn’t really given up any big returns on the year, but field position will be important in this one.
Raiders: It was one helluva day for Sebastian Janikowski in week one. He nailed a career long 63-yard field goal in the thin Mile High air. He’s one of the best kickers in the history of the game, and it the game comes down to his leg, you can be sure that he won’t let Oakland down.
Broncos: John Fox and his staff will be tailoring the Broncos offense to Tebow’s strengths even more this week. They have to. Fighting his unconventional style of play will only make the Broncos’ offense stagnant. Fox will have to bring the team back from an embarrassing home loss. If not, people are going to start calling for his termination too.
Raiders: Hue Jackson has done wonders with the Raiders. However, he’s got a point to prove on Sunday as well. Before their bye week, the team got crushed at home by a divisional rival. With his semi-new and semi-healthy roster, let’s see if the coach can amend things with the Oakland crowd.
Prediction: Raiders – 24 Broncos – 21.