Oct 4, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (23) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Anthony Barr (55) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
For my brief thoughts on this game, as well as the other two week five games featuring teams from the AFC West, please continue reading.
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders: While this bitter AFC West rivalry has diminished somewhat over the years, I am a bit more excited this week to watch the Broncos and Raiders face each other than years past. A number of reasons drive this excitement but if I had to narrow it down, I would say that there are three main things driving my emotions.
First, each week I become more and more convinced that the Broncos defense is for real. Once again, the defensive unit sealed a victory for the Broncos in week four when they caused Minnesota Vikings quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, to fumble as he was attempting to drive his team to a potential game tying field goal toward the end of regulation.
Watching the Broncos, I love the depth they have on defense – give DeMarcus Ware and/or Von Miller a blow and in comes rookie Shane Ray. Over four quarters of football that is a tough combination to stop. Oh yeah, Derek Wolfe returns this week after serving a four game suspension due to violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. I am sure he will be well rested and hungry!
While the Broncos defense definitely appears to be in mid-season form, the offense continues to transform week-to-week. This is the second thing that makes me impatient and drives my excitement as I wait for football Sunday to arrive.
The running game continues to improve and after four games it is very apparent that the Broncos definitely need this aspect of the game to improve in order to keep the opposing defense on their toes a bit and to protect our aging quarterback. Statistically the Broncos running game looked awesome against Minnesota as C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman rushed for a combined 146 yards (72 of those yards came on Hillman’s second quarter touchdown run).
Hopefully, Gary Kubiak can continue to get the offensive rushing attack better each week; if this happens, maybe some of those poorly executed pass plays we saw last week will decrease or be less significant. The Broncos may have a tough test ahead of them as the Raiders are ranked 11th in the league in rushing defense, giving up an average of 93.2 yards per game after four weeks (the New York Giants are first at 69.8 yards per game).
Lastly, I am looking forward to seeing ex-Bronco defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio against the Broncos. I could be totally off base but my assumption is that coaches in the NFL are probably a bit more pumped up when they face “their old team”!
While the Raiders still have a long way to go, the Raiders definitely appear to be trending the right direction under Del Rio’s leadership. That being said, I am sure Kubiak may have bit more pep in his step because he gets to face the Raiders as the Broncos head coach.
During his days as John Elway’s backup, the Raider/Bronco rivalry was intense – I think about the drama with Mike Shanahan and Al Davis; the on-field battle between Howie Long and Elway, to name just a couple. Can’t wait to watch these two coaches and the chess match that exists in every NFL contest.
Oct 4, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) looks on from the sidelines in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 36-21. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears at Kansas City Chiefs: As much as I hate to admit it, I think the Chiefs will end their three game losing streak when they host the Chicago Bears of the NFC North. I am hoping that John Fox and Adam Gase will somehow pull from their past experience of playing in Arrowhead that they acquired while with the Denver Broncos.
John Fox coached the Broncos from 2011-2014 and during that time was 4-0 against the Chiefs in Kansas City. Three of those years, however, the Broncos were quarterback by Peyton Manning. Now, Fox visits Arrowhead with Jay Cutler as his signal caller. Jay Cutler is definitely no Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Andy Dalton – the three quarterbacks who have handed the Chiefs their three losses.
The Chiefs field goal kicker, Cairo Santos, and his seven field goals was the highlight for the Chiefs in their latest loss, a 36-21 defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals in week four. While Alex Smith had 31 completions for 386 yards, he was sacked five times. Through week four Smith has been sacked 18 times, which leads the league.
The Chicago Bears are ranked 23rd in the league with only six sacks so Smith may get somewhat of a break this week. It is still early in the season but this is almost a must-win for the Chiefs as they find themselves at 1-3 and in last place in the AFC West.
Oct 4, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) pumps his fist after a 30-27 win over the Cleveland Browns at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers: Week five comes to a close with a Monday night match-up between two teams that find themselves at 2-2. The Chargers are coming off of a 30-27 victory over the Cleveland Browns, while the Steelers have had a long break after their 23-20 loss against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night that kicked off week four action.
For the sake of the Broncos, I am hoping that this nationally televised prime time game will turn out differently for the Steelers.
The Chargers’ two wins have come at home so the Chargers will be looking to continue their undefeated streak at home. Steeler nation travels well and will possibly neutralize the Chargers home fans, but the black-and-gold faithful in attendance will have to rely on Michael Vick to bring them their third win of the season; Ben Roethlisberger continues to recover from the sprained MCL in his left knee suffered in week three against the St. Louis Rams.
I look for this game to be close and expect the legs Chris Boswell and Josh Lambo to be a determining factor. Chris Boswell signed with the Steelers just this week after Josh Scobee was cut from the Steelers after missing two field goals in the 23-20 Baltimore loss.
Enjoy week five Broncos Country! Go Broncos – beat the Raiders!