The Oakland Raiders will travel to take on the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football this week. The two rivals will square off for the 17th time on Monday night, the most in NFL history. In a tight AFC West, this game is important to keep pace in a division that has played very well early in the 2013 campaign.
For the Raiders offense, the recipe has been running the football. After two games, the Raiders lead the NFL averaging 198.5 rushing yards per game. Last week against the Jaguars, they racked up 226 on the ground. The team's two most important and dynamic players on offense, Darren McFadden and Terrelle Pryor, help each other in the ground attack. Look for the Raiders to continue to feed McFadden and use Pryor in the read option to open lanes for McFadden and allow Pryor the opportunity to get loose on the outside. Running the ball has an important product, which is keeping Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning off the field, but it will be a challenge against Denver's number one run defense in the he NFL allowing only 40.5 yards per game.
Oakland did not need the passing game last week against the inept Jacksonville offense. This week will be a totally different story. Pryor did not look crisp in his last outing throwing the ball. He needs to settle into a rhythm and show improved accuracy. Rod Streater has been a great target for Pryor with his solid route running and hands. Denarius Moore has had big drops and needs to clean up his inconsistencies. Rookie tight end Mychal Rivera has filled in very well for the injured Davis Ausberry and is developing alongside Pryor.
Defensively, the Raiders are preparing for the most difficult test in football. Manning is on the short list of the best to have ever played the game. Already this season Manning has tossed nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Oakland secondary is improved, but they will have their hands full. Mike Jennings, Tracy Porter, and DJ Hayden are going to have to play a near flawless game against a stable of great receivers in Denver. With safety Tyvon Branch out Raiders will turn to Brandian Ross to start with Usuma Young also seeing playing time. Both players were impactful in a positive way last week with three sacks between them.
Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will have a predicament on his hands Monday, whether or not to blitz Manning. The Raiders have nine sacks this season which is a result of great pressure and good blitz calls from different angles and positions. Tarver has done a nice job dialing up pressure. However, Manning is one of the best in the league at identifying and beating the blitz. Tarver is an aggressive play caller, so expect the Raiders to still dial up the blitz, but the front four, especially defensive end Lamaar Houston working against a replacement left tackle, will have to generate a pass rush without extra players committed on a blitz. The game plan will be to keep Manning off balance with disguised pressure and multiple looks from the same alignments.
The Raiders are going to have to continue to play the run well against Denver. Knowshon Moreno has begun the 2013 season with impressive performances. If Denver gets the running game going to compliment that terrific pass attack, it will be a long evening for the silver and black. If the Raiders can run the ball and stop the run, it is a tried and true method of success in the NFL and against the Denver Broncos.
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