The Oakland Raiders square off with the Denver Broncos on Monday night as -14.5 underdogs. Peyton Manning has thrown 9 touchdowns and no interceptions. The Raiders defense has been better than anyone expected, including the notorious fan base given the defensive woes of the preseason. However, Oakland has a big fat zero in the turnover department. The law of averages suggest that every quarterback will eventually throw an interception and every defense will eventually cause an interception when given a large enough sample size. If Oakland can make Monday night the game where they notch their first interception there chances increase dramatically. Statistics over two games suggest Peyton Manning will extend his touchdown streak without an interception.
In the two game sample, the Ravens and Giants each ran a lot of zone coverage with minimal pressure on Manning. The Ravens believed the front four could get to Manning and the Giants were afraid of blitzing given Manning’s prowess for detecting blitzes. The Raiders, since about five minutes into the 2nd quarter of the Indianapolis Colts game have been a constant in the backfield and only allowed a touchdown (technically 2 touchdowns, I don’t count the Henne touchdown when the game was out of contention and the goal of the defense was no longer to stop the opposing offense). I’m not saying the Raiders have a better defense than the aforementioned teams, but football is a game of match ups and void of any sort of parallax. The Broncos offense is by in large part predicated on timing and very difficult to stop when ran by appropriate personnel. The Achilles heel of timing patterns is press man coverage or “bump and run” as it sometimes referred. Bump and run consist of mugging receivers for the allowed five yards in an effort to disrupt the timing of the route while allowing the pressure to reach the quarterback. And yes you guessed correctly, this is a favorite of the Raiders defense, dating back to when Al Davis was roaming the sidelines.
The Broncos will enter the game with the top ranked rush defense ready to square of against the Raiders’ top rushed offense on paper this collision should have a draw to rival last Saturday’s Mayweather-Canelo fight. In fact it would be a clash of the ages if the two stats were conventionally achieved, however this is not the case. The Broncos have held their opponents to a stunning 40.5 yards a game, if it sounds to good to be true…that’s because it is too good to be true. The Ravens tested the Broncos rush defense only 21 times compared to 62 pass plays. The Giants on the other hand had 23 rush plays to 49 pass plays. These are pass first offenses who fell behind and doubled down to try to out shoot Peyton Manning. The Raiders rush offense is top ranked by in large part by Pryor taking advantage of pressure situations or broken plays. Broncos linebacker Shaun Phillips believes its imperative for his team to stop the run and sees the Raider’s rush offense as being the genuine article and had the following to say.
If you don’t stop the run and make a team one-dimensional, it’s hard to win.
The Broncos will look to jump on the Raiders out of the gate and build a huge lead in efforts getting the Raiders to abandon the run as the Giants and Ravens were forced to do. The Raiders, however don’t have a passer as polished as Denver’s previous opponents, but they do have an equally dangerous quarterback who will make plays with his feet scripted or unscripted. So in essence if Denver’s motive is to make Oakland abandon the run, they may have a better chance of getting Dummerville back because their run game is embedded in the team DNA as long as Pryor is under center.
A run game goes a long ways when defending an elite passer by taking time off the clock. Rush dominated drives limit the amount of times this passer is on the field, provide long breaks between series which lets your defense rest, keeps the offense from getting into too much of a rhythm and gives the defensive coordinator a chance to show pictures of the previous drive to his unit. The other key to beating an elite passer is getting pressure. The Broncos will be without their star left tackle Ryan Clady who was lost for the season. Clady’s replacement six year journeyman Chris Clark who has been cut by three teams and last saw playing time as an extra tight end. Broncos believe Clark will do well in replacing Clady because they have to believe in Clark. Few teams have a good left tackle much less two, so I don’t think he will do so well. The broncos are also down to the third center on the team, 30 year old Manny Ramirez. Oakland is pacing the league in sacks and defensive end Lamar Houston leads the young season in QB pressure with 16. Houston will have his way with Chris Clark and Denver’s make shift line will struggle on Monday night. The Broncos have yet to lose to an AFC west opponent since Manning joined the club, the law of averages says they eventually will, I say eventually is Monday night.