The Oakland Raiders are in Denver and ready for their first divisional game. A few things to look for early in the contest which could very well determine the victor, as well as set the tempo for the evening.
Lamar Houston vs Chris Clark
If Houston can dominate this matchup early, the Broncos will be forced to move a tight end over to help chip. A tight end left in to chip means one less down field option for Peyton Manning. While I am no mathematician, 4 potential targets will be a lot easier to cover than 5.
Charles Woodson vs Peyton Manning
Tyvon Branch is done for the season and the Raiders will start either Brandian Ross or Usama Young in his stead, however they both figure to receive significant playing time. The real story will be Charles Woodson moving to strong safety and being closer to the line of scrimmage. Woodson shined in this role for the Packers and will be in position to be more of an impact play maker, as illustrated by his acrobatics in a flying tackle on Maurice Jones-Drew last week that would have made Jimmy Snuka proud. Charles Woodson is also a master of blitzing and equally adept at disguising his blitz. Both of which figure to lay the foundation for a chess match with Peyton Manning.
Terrelle Pryor vs Broncos Secondary
Terrelle Pryor must prove that he is both willing and capable of going deep against the Broncos secondary. Pryor need not look any further than the Broncos playoff loss to the Ravens where Torrey Smith routinely got behind the secondary, mainly Rahim Moore. If Pryor can provide a legitimate deep threat early, the running game will have massive running lanes, if not Moore is a hard hitting, fast safety and figures to be relatively close to the line of scrimmage.
Tracey Porter vs Wes Welker
If Wes Welker can win this matchup routinely then the evening will be very long. Welker is a prime third down target and frequently used to extend drives. If Tracey Porter can win 60-70 percent of these battles the defense has a shot of ending some drives early.
War of Attrition
The Broncos figure to be adapted to the high altitude which can cause faster fatigue and cramping. Terrelle Pryor and his knack for extending plays will cause the offensive line or the defensive line of the Broncos to gasp for oxygen by the 4th quarter. If the Raiders can keep the game close and win the war of attrition they figure to have a great shot of coming away with a win.
The Colts win over the 49ers and the relative ease by which the Colts moved the ball on the road, served as validity of the Raiders’ defensive improvement which held Andrew Luck and the Colts offense to one touchdown for three quarters. The Raiders also have the advantage of being the first read option team to face the Broncos. The Colts were more than ready for the read option after facing Pryor which figures to be the case with most teams. The Giants complete dismantling at the hands of the Carolina Panthers takes a little steam off the Broncos decisive road victory over the Giants. The Broncos are still an offensive power house, but possibly not as invincible as once suspected.