LOCATION: Oakland Coliseum
BETTING LINE: Even
BRONCOS PLAYER TO WATCH
Denver leads the league in both sacks (26) and quarterback hits (75). The battle between Denver’s defense and Oakland’s passing offense should be interesting. Derek Carr has only been sacked nine times this season, despite having attempted the most passes in the NFL.
Von Miller has been unstoppable this season. The Super Bowl MVP has been successful regardless of whether he is double-teamed or chipped by a tight end. Miller has 8.5 sacks in eight games this season. He should spend most of the game lined up against Austin Howard, arguably the Raiders’ weakest offensive lineman. Miller has been successful in previous meetings with Oakland, and will attempt to continue his two-game forced fumble streak against the team.
OAKLAND RAIDERS PLAYER TO WATCH
After a slow start to the season, Khalil Mack has become the dominant player the Raiders and their fans expected. Mack has three sacks in three games and is coming off of a breakout game against Tampa where he had two sacks and a tackle for a loss. The Raiders need him to come up big against Denver to win this game. Last season, Mack had five sacks against Denver, helping Oakland win 15-12. Raiders’ fans shouldn’t expect another performance of that level, but they’ll need him to put pressure on Denver QB Trevor Siemien to keep Denver’s offense off of it’s game.
BRONCOS POSITION GROUP PREVIEW
OFFENSIVE LINE: Last season, the Broncos gave up five sacks to Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack. The group has improved this season, but is still below league average. Stopping Mack is a priority for the offense this week.
RUNNING BACKS: Rookie Devontae Booker will continue to get most of the carries this week. The Broncos need to be able to move the ball and chew the clock against a high-powered Raider offense. This starts with the running game.
SECONDARY: The Broncos easily have the best secondary in the NFL. This season, T.Y. Hilton, Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Julio Jones have averaged 3.5 catches for 42 yards per game against the Broncos. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree present another tough matchup, but Denver has shown that they are up for the challenge.
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
From Oakland’s perspective: As one of the most storied rivalries in the NFL, this game between Oakland and Denver will be a fight until the end. Both teams have had very successful seasons so far and have major playoff aspirations. For the Raiders, the road to the AFC West throne runs through Denver. All offseason this team was talked about as a playoff team. They currently sit at 6-2 and have a MVP level candidate in Derek Carr. None of that matters if they can’t beat Denver this weekend. They are at home, riding a big win, looking to take a bigger lead on the AFC West divisional lead. If they truly want to be known as playoff contenders they have to win against Denver. You want to be the best? You have to beat the best.
While the fan in me wants a win, I still believe Denver is the better. I expect a close and tough fight for both teams. 20-17 Denver
From Denver’s perspective:
The Broncos and Raiders are currently tied at the top of the AFC West, with each team winning six of their first eight games. Denver has won the division each of the last five years, while Oakland has averaged just 5.2 wins per season in that timeframe.
However, this season could mark the onset of a new era. Third-year quarterback Derek Carr has become one of the league’s elite passers. Last week, he threw for 509 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions in an overtime defeat of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I think for Derek, he’s had a tremendous start to the season, led our football team,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Wednesday. “He’s really all about his preparation and the way he’s gone about his business and been a good leader for us, done things not only on the field, but off the field, in the locker room and what not. For us it’s about continuing our process. We have a good process. Recover from the last one, prepare during the week and then go out and compete. He’s been excellent at that.”
Carr will face a tougher test this week against the Broncos defense. Cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. form an almost impassable duo. Third-year nickel cornerback Bradley Roby, who won AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors last week, completes a group that has not allowed a touchdown to a wide receiver in the Broncos’ last seven games.
“They’re one of the best defenses in the NFL,” Derek Carr said. “Let alone this year, but for the last however many years, they’ve been one of the best we’ve ever seen in this league. So, they’re always a good challenge for us, but we’re definitely looking forward to it.”
OAKLAND POSITION GROUP RATINGS
Derek Carr has been an MVP level player through the first half of the season. He currently has 17 TDs with just 4 INTs. He’s played smart and has led Oakland to to multiple comeback victories.
Oakland’s secondary took a major hit last weekend when starting corner Sean Smith left the game early and did not return. While the Raiders have the 27th ranked passing defense, they have put together a couple good games defensively. They will need their secondary to step up in a major way Sunday night if they hope to win.
SPECIAL TEAMS: 10/10
While kicker Sebastian Janikowski has had an up and down season, Raiders’ punter Marquette King has been the best in the business this season. He has a booming leg and has pinned opponents inside their own 20 consistently. Keeping the Broncos’ offense deep in it’s own territory will be huge.