Oakland Raiders Keys to Success: Denver Broncos

Andrew Flores – Dec 8, 2015

While the loss is a bitter pill to swallow the Raiders went toe to toe with a playoff caliber football team. The defensive unit was relentless sacking Smith 4 times. Carr had the offense clicking, Murray looked confident and was running hard.  I know it felt like the sky was falling as a win slipped from the Raiders’ grasp, but there were plenty of positives. In the final seconds of the 2nd quarter Carr threw a spectacular 25 yard touchdown threading the needle with pinpoint accuracy. This throw was unbelievable, both Eric Berry and Sean Smith had airtight coverage on Crabtree yet Carr was able to make the play.  I was initially hesitant when people compared Carr to Aaron Rodgers early on yet, I can’t help but agree. The bottom-line is Carr is developing into an elite quarterback for the Raiders. Carr’s struggles were largely reflective of the team’s struggles. As the game progressed the Chiefs started dialing up the blitz and the offensive line crumbled.  While the argument can be made that Carr’s turnovers cost the Raiders the game, the reality is that football is the ultimate team sport and the loss was a team effort.

 In analyzing this Bronco’s team I see a team that has been buoyed by their dominant defense. Even before the injury to Peyton Manning the Broncos’ dominant defense was carrying this team. As the season has progressed the Bronco’s defense has been hit hard as injuries have begun to pile up. The Broncos could be without a few key players when they face the Raiders on Sunday. Demarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Sylvester Williams, and Danny Trevathan are all players that could miss the game due to injury. Yet in spite of all the injuries the Broncos defense remains the no. 1 total defense, the no. 1 passing defense, and the no. 2 scoring defense. If the Broncos beat the Raiders it will be on the shoulders of their defense.

Offensively the Broncos are led by quarterback Brock Osweiler while the offense has improved under Osweiler he has not proven himself by any means, and he struggled mightily last week. Last week Osweiler struggled to push the ball downfield against a porous Chargers defense and was 0-6 with an interception on passes thrown 15 yards downfield last week. The Broncos have struggled to run the ball all season, and an injury to running back C.J. Anderson could add to the struggles on Sunday when the Broncos face the Raiders. The playmakers for this Broncos offense are receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.  Thomas is an elite receiver with a rare balance of size and speed. Thomas currently leads the Broncos with 78 receptions, and 972 yards. Thomas is dominant after the catch and he excels at turning short passes into huge plays. Sanders is an elite route runner and is the Broncos deep threat. He is currently averaging 14 yards per reception. In their last match Sanders torched the Raiders secondary, so the Broncos could look to challenge the Raiders downfield despite Osweiler’s struggles Sunday. 

In analyzing the Broncos defense I see a unit that embodies toughness the Broncos bully opposing offenses with their physical play. Throughout the season this defense has demoralized opposing offenses, as they are excellent at forcing turnovers and capitalizing on them. The Broncos have also excelled at pressuring the quarterback. The Broncos pass rush is led by the dominant duo of Von Miller and, Demarcus Ware. If Ware is unable to play then the Broncos first round draft pick Shane Ray will get the nod. Ray will be confident if he gets the nod Sunday as he fared well against the Raiders in the last game.  Whether it is Ray or Ware these pass rushers will challenge the Raiders offensive line all game long. The Broncos currently lead the NFL with 41 sacks and will look to pressure Carr in order to mask their losses in the secondary. This defense will be looking to make plays, so that they do not have to rely heavily on their young quarterback.

Offensively the Raiders cannot afford to make any mistakes as this Denver defense has been excellent at capitalizing on turnovers. The Raiders will need to attack this defense in a variety of ways, as predictable play calling has been an issue throughout the season.   In their first game the Raiders deployed plenty of quick passes.  While they did have success with it, in this game the Raiders would be better off taking shots down the field, as this Broncos’ secondary could very well be missing some key pieces. While taking shots downfield is a gamble it gives the Raiders the best chance to succeed. Further, Carr has shown he can make the tough throws downfield. Tight-end Clive Walford could end up being a huge factor in this game as he was a mismatch in the last game, and the Raiders could look to feature him heavily.

Defensively the Raiders have done an excellent job of pressuring the quarterback. Khalil Mack and Mario Edwards have been dominant for the Raiders and will likely have another strong showing on Sunday. The Raiders greatest challenge will be containing Emmanuel Sanders as his speed challenged them throughout the last game. The Raiders would be wise to double team Sanders to prevent big plays. While he is not the Broncos number one receiver, Sanders poses the biggest threat as he has a knack for making great plays. While Thomas is an elite talent in analyzing Thomas I found that at times he doesn’t finish his routes and this allows the defender to make plays on the ball. In addition Thomas has a tendency to struggle when an opposing defensive back gets physical with him. The Raiders will likely deploy aggressive man coverage on Sunday. In the last game the Raiders were able to execute excellently and held Thomas to 55 yards. The Raiders could elect to have David Amerson cover Thomas as he excels at getting physical with opposing wide receivers. The Raiders could also elect to have Hayden cover Thomas as he held his own against him in their last match.  

I know last week’s loss was a bitter pill to swallow, but there were plenty of positives. The Raiders could dumbfound the Denver Broncos come Sunday. The Raiders are facing a beatable Denver team. While Osweiler has been better than Manning, he was terrible last week and the Broncos’ inability to run the football will only add to his struggles. 

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