Oakland Raiders vs Denver Broncos
At first glance, the Oakland Raiders have no chance to upset the Denver Broncos when they play in the Mile High city in their 17th Monday night matchup tonight.
Peyton Manning is playing at such a high level (67%, 376 yards per game, 9 yards per attempt, 9 touchdowns and no interceptions with an amazing 131 Passer Rating) he looks like an early season candidate for the NFL’s MVP award and the defense is playing reasonably well without suspended standout Von Miller.
However, if you look at the injury report there’s a slim possibility that Oakland could pull the upset. Ryan Clady has been put on the injured reserve list, ending his season prematurely when he suffered a Lisfranc injury (in his left foot) in their 41-23 win over the New York Giants. This is the first time in his career he has ever missed a game in 6 seasons. He has same injury Raiders RB Darren McFadden had in 2011 when he was off to his hot start early in the season. He played in just 7 games that season and the Denver training staff is playing it safe shutting down Clady.
Clady’s job is to protect Manning’s blind side and that job now falls to 6 year veteran Chris Clark. He has played in just 42 games and made 6 career starts. He’ll be starting at least for this game against the Silver and Black. The Broncos signed tackle Winston Justice on Wednesday, so the pressure will be on Clark to protect Manning or Justice could be the new replacement for Clady. Clark will have to deal with veteran defensive Jason Hunter who has gotten off to a nice start this season with 9 tackles and 2 sacks. He’s going to need to keep Hunter from getting to Manning for either a sack or QB pressures. The Raiders are tied for the League lead in sacks with 9 after the first 2 games.
And the fact it’s the only game on Monday night and in prime time has the Raider players ready. “It’s going to be exciting. It’s huge for us,” Hunter told Raiders.com. “It gives us the opportunity for the world to see what the Oakland Raiders are about, see our passion, see how hungry we are, see how hard we’re working during the week, trying to do things the right way. It’s going to be great for the fans to see that, especially against a rivalry, it’s great.”
Making things a little tougher for Oakland is the loss of strong safety Tyvon Branch. He hurt his ankle last week in the Raiders 19-9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and is expected to miss the game, plus some additional games.
Seven year veteran Usama Young will be expected to step in and start. Young was a free agent acquisition and signed in April after spending 2 years with the Cleveland Browns. Young is familiar with head coach Dennis Allen, he played in New Orleans when Allen was the secondary coach from 2008-2010. So far this season, Young has 4 tackles and 1.5 sacks in limited action. He’ll see a lot more action as long as Branch is sidelined. Young made a career high 11 starts last year with the Browns and had his best season (53 tackles, 7 passes defended and 3 interceptions) in 2012. Maybe the Raiders secondary isn’t in such bad shape.
The Raiders running game needs to continue to dominate (2nd in the NFl with 198.5 yards per game) for them to have a chance to pull a huge upset. Darren McFadden is coming off a 129 yard performance against the Jags and the Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor is averaging a flashy 7.4 yards per carry and 81 yards a game, just behind McFadden’s 88.5 ypg. But they’ll be tested by the best run defense in the NFL. The Broncos run defense is allowing just 40.5 yards per game, but in fairness their opponents have only attempted 40 rushes all season as opposed to 111 passes.
“I’m glad 58 [Von Miller] isn’t playing. These guys are very sharp; they’re sound, the outside guys, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, they’re tough corners, they have tough safeties out in back,” Pryor told Raiders.com. “Their front four is pretty good. Wesley Woodyard can run and is a strong guy, so it’s definitely a challenge; the number one rush-stop defense versus the number one rushing offense. We’re going to be running the ball and throwing the ball, so let’s see what we can get.”
They need to establish the run because the passing game is averaging a pathetic 158 ypg, 29th in the League. The Broncos pass defense is solid and they have managed to record 5 sacks, primarily because of Shaun Phillips who has registered 2.5 through the first 2 games. But, he’s questionable with back spasms. With the Raiders weak offensive line the best plan of attack is to eat up yards and the clock by using a ball control offense with their power running game and short conservative passes.
Ho do I think the game will finish? Prediction: Broncos 27, Raiders 13
-The offensive line is a MASH unit with left tackle Menelik Watson out with a knee injury and left guard guard Lucas Nix questionable with an ankle injury. So the always questionable Khalif Barnes will be switching to LT to try and keep Terelle Pryor protected from the pass rush and newly acquired Tony Pashos will be the right tackle. Andre Gurode will replace Nix if he can’t play. The left side has been totally shuffled from what it was expected to be.
-Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey, tight end Jacob Tamme and wide receiver Wes Welker are all questionable for the Broncos.
-The Broncos lead the all time Monday night series vs the Raiders with an 8-7-1 record, but the Raiders lead the all time series, 59-44-2.
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