Peyton Manning has nine TDs this season. Image courtesy of nbcsports.com
This match pits probably the Broncos’ outstanding passing offence against the Raiders’ fifth-rated pass defence, then on the other side, Denver’s top-rated run defence faces off against Oakland ground game, currently the best in the NFL.
At 37 years of age, Peyton Manning should be slowing down, but he is showing no signs of ageing after becoming the first quarterback in history to throw nine touchdowns and not a single interception in the first two weeks of a season. He has depth with his wide receivers in the form of Demaryius Thomas , Eric Decker and Wes Welker , while tight end Julius Thomas is tied with Welker with a team-leading three TD receptions.
Denver’s offensive line has suffered a blow with left tackle Ryan Clady suffering a season-ending foot injury. Manning’s game smarts mean the Broncos won’t suffer, despite having to bring in an inferior pass protector. In his final season with the Colts, Manning was sacked just 16 times, and the year after with essentially the same offensive line, the Colts’ three starting quarterbacks were downed a total of 35 times. The Raiders’ secondary has taken a hit with starting safety Tyvon Branch out indefinitely with a fractured fibula.
One area Denver needs to improve is its ground game. Knowshon Moreno is averaging 5.5 yards per carry with two touchdowns, but rookie Montee Ball has really struggled. The Raiders have no such problem with their backfield; after a quiet opening week, Darren McFadden destroyed the Jaguars in Week 2 running for 129 yards. The Broncos’ run defence ranks No. 1 in the league, so it will be fascinating to see if Oakland can make any inroads, especially if QB Terrelle Pryor struggles to consistently connect with his receivers.
Last year the Broncos swept the AFC West and if they beat the Raiders on Tuesday morning (AEST), it will tie the franchise’s second-longest division winning streak. They would need another four straight victories over division rivals to tie the longest run of 11 in a row set in 1997-98. This is a completely different Oakland team to last season, though, with nine new starters on defence. Denver has won seven straight games at Mile High.
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