Over the last few years, it hasn’t been atypical for the Broncos or Raiders to be among the league leaders in rushing. In 2011 with Tim Tebow as the starting quarterback, the Broncos ranked first in the league in the rushing category offensively, mainly because they had no other choice.
The Broncos rode a tough running game and an opportunistic defense–and some magic–to the playoffs that year. The Oakland Raiders (1-1) are hoping they can have similar luck, though they won’t have the luxury of winning the AFC West with an 8-8 record…At least, not that anyone in their right mind thinks.
This season, the Raiders are leading the NFL with nearly 400 yards rushing through their first two games, averaging 198.5 yards in their first two contests. The Raiders gave the Colts a good game in the opening week of the season, a game that came down to a Terrelle Pryor interception late in the fourth quarter.
In week two, the Raiders dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars, arguably the worst team in the NFL this season, thanks large in part to the contributions of quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Darren McFadden.
Pryor and McFadden have run for a combined 339 yards and one touchdown, and they will undoubtedly lean on their ground game to try and slow the game down for the fast-paced Broncos.
The good news for the Broncos is, as much as Oakland has been able to do on the ground this season, the Broncos have also been equally dominant defending the run. The Broncos have only had teams run the ball against them a total of 40 times in two games, but they’ve allowed just 81 yards on those 40 carries and look stout especially up the middle.
Denver’s defensive line is perfectly build to defend against the run, and the back end of the defense is perfectly suited to defend against the pass. Against the Raiders, you’ll see a healthy dose of Kevin Vickerson, Terrance Knighton, Derek Wolfe, and Robert Ayers up front.
The Broncos have done a lot of mixing up their defensive fronts in their first two games against teams that like to run the ball, but on the early downs, it’s been Denver that has emerged victorious. The Raiders aren’t exactly known for their strong offensive line, so they’ll have to make some plays in the passing game in order to beat Denver.
In a game that will have all the focus on Peyton Manning and the passing game, it’s at least interesting to note the teams rank at the top of the league in these reciprocating categories.